Can attention and working memory be strengthened via training?

Attention and working memory are critical for performance success but prone to degradation by several factors. We have been pursuing training modalities to strengthen and protect these functions. Our research suggests that contemplative training programs involving mindfulness and other practices strengthen attention and working memory moreso than other active comparison programs such as relaxation training (Rooks et al., 2017; Denkova et al., 2020) and positivity training (Jha et al., 2020). Our findings provide guidance on best practices regarding critical program content (Jha et al., 2020), minimum program duration (Zanesco et al., 2019), and key trainer competencies (Jha et al., 2020, Denkova et al., 2021) to promote salutary effects. In our current projects, we are exploring scalable dissemination approaches to, such as self-guided, technology supported approaches.


Denkova, E., Barry, J., Zanesco, A.P., Rooks, J., Rogers., S. L., & Jha, A.P. (2023). Online mindfulness training for older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic: a randomized controlled trial using a multi-method assessment approach. Aging & Mental Health.

Denkova, E., Barry, J., Slavin, L., Zanesco, A. P., Rogers, S.L., & Jha, A.P. (2021). Investigating the impact of peer-trainer delivered mindfulness training on cognitive abilities and psychological health. Mindfulness, 12, 2645–2661.

Denkova, E., Zanesco, A. P., Rogers, S. L., & Jha, A. P. (2020). Is resilience trainable? An initial study comparing mindfulness and relaxation training in firefighters. Psychiatry Research, 285, 112794.

Rooks, J., Morrison, A. B., Goolsarran, M., Rogers, S. L., & Jha, A. P. (2017). “We are talking about practice”: The influence of mindfulness vs. relaxation training on athletes’ attention and well-being over high-demand intervals. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, 1, 141-153.

Morrison, A. B., Goolsarran, M., Rogers, S. L., & Jha, A. P. (2014). Taming a wandering attention: Short-form mindfulness training in student cohorts. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7(897), 1-11.