Mind the sequence: Long-term mindfulness meditation training enhances motor sequence performance and representation in older adults

Maarten A. Immink*, Russell Weili Chan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review


Mindfulness meditation techniques have been shown to enhance attention,
working memory and learning. As such, regular mindfulness training might
be effective in reducing motor sequence learning deficits observed in older
adults. Learning in the serial reaction time (SRT) task was compared between
15 older adults (6 females, Mage=59.8±4.7 years) with a mean of 2,862
hours (± 3,460.6, range 442.5 – 13,167 hours) of mindfulness meditation
experience and 13 healthy control older adults (7 females, Mage = 60.1 ± 54.7
years). Meditators (M= 42.4 ± 4.6) scored significantly higher on the Freiburg
Mindfulness Inventory than controls (M= 32.8 ± 7.2, p < .001). Across 20
blocks of the SRT with an embedded 12-item, second-order conditional
sequence, meditators (M= 480.5 ± 103.8 ms) performed with significantly
shorter reaction time than controls (M= 632.4 ± 204.2 ms, p < .001). A
significant block main effect (p < .001) and non-significant group x block
interaction (p = .17) indicated that both groups demonstrated equivalent rates
of improvement. However, meditators (M= 118.0 ± 92.0 ms) demonstrated
significantly higher transfer costs than non-meditators (M= 19.2 ± 146.5 ms,
p < .05) in a final, novel sequence SRT block. Furthermore, meditators
performed significantly higher in recall of the 12-item practiced sequence
(47.2% ± 11.6 vs 29.5% ± 12.6, p < .001). Higher transfer costs and sequence
recall in meditators indicates that a greater extent of motor sequence learning
contributed to SRT improvements in this group. In contrast, the control
group’s improvements were based on general practice effects. With respect to
motor sequence behavior, these results highlight two important benefits of
mindfulness training in older adults. Mindfulness training might reduce
response latencies by enhancing selective attention and response inhibition
processes. Motor sequence learning in older adults could as well benefit from
mindfulness training through enhanced working memory function resulting in
better capacity for development of sequential representations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMind the sequence: Long-term mindfulness meditation training enhances motor sequence performance and representation in older adults
PublisherHuman Kinetics Publishers Inc.
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Mindfulness
  • motor sequence learning
  • motor behaviour
  • Cognitive enhancement

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