with Macy Ratliff and Dr. Sarah Short
The Mindfulness and Working Memory Study examines whether a Parent-Child Mindfulness Based Training (PC-MBT) program improves children’s subsequent gains from a working memory training. An additional aim of this study is to examine structural and functional neural plasticity associated with these cognitive and behavioral training programs. We will investigate white matter tracts connecting areas of the brain associated with working memory, attention and emotional regulation. At the Bridging Hearts and Minds Conference we will present cognitive and behavioral data from this initial pilot program.
Our 6-week PC-MBT program is based on two established mindfulness programs for children (Mindful Schools and A Still Quiet Place). Our program provides both in-home and online instruction for children and their parents.
Results from our pilot program and preliminary analysis from the subset of participants for which data has been collected indicates that the programs and study protocol are feasible and that families are satisfied with their training experience. Collection of data from all participants will be completed and results from final cognitive/behavioral analyses will address whether gains in working memory are any greater for children who had prior mindfulness training. The ability to characterize subtle individual differences in brain development associated with complex cognitive functions holds promise for improving our understanding of experience- dependent learning and developmental periods of plasticity that are optimal for intervention efforts. These are long term goals that this research aims to eventually support.
Dr. Sarah J. Short is the Principal Investigator of the Parent-Child Mindfulness Based Training study. She earned her PhD in Biological Psychology and Neuroscience from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Psychiatry Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Broadly, her research is focused on characterizing brain and cognitive development in typical and high-risk children from birth through early childhood. More specifically, her current research projects are designed to investigate neuroplasticity associated with cognitive training program shown to improve working memory capacity. The research is important for identifying the brain networks that support children’s working memory early in life and individual differences related to training outcomes. Most recently, this work has been extended in a study examining whether mindfulness training, of both parents and children, prior to memory training has a positive impact on subsequent working memory training outcomes for children. This work utilizes structural and functional neuroimaging (MRIs) and cognitive assessments to measure changes in the brain associated with training related improvements. The Parent-Child Mindfulness Based Training Study receives funding support from The Mind and Life Institute’s Varela Award and a career development award (K01) from the NIMH.
Macy Ratliff received her Master’s Degree in Speech and Hearing Science from the University of Washington and her Bachelor’s Degree from Middlebury College in Psychology and Elementary Education. Previous work experiences include serving as a rehab audiologist in a variety of settings for a range of populations. Currently, she is the primary instructor for the mindfulness portion of the Parent-Child Mindfulness Based Training Study. She is certified in several programs that are the foundations of the study’s mindfulness training, including “Mindful Schools” and Amy Saltzman’s “A Still Quiet Place”. Macy is also certified in children’s yoga (Registered Yoga Training). She has many years of experience creating mindfulness and yoga programs for students spanning preschool through high school throughout the greater Seattle and Chapel Hill areas. In addition to her passion for her work with children, Macy loves to travel and be outdoors. Her passions include swimming, kayaking, cross country skiing and paddle boarding.
Email: Macy_ratliff@med.unc.edu Website: www.macyratliffyoga.com