An Online Course in Contemplative Neuroscience Increases Dispositional Mindfulness and Reduces Meditation Barriers

Uta Wolfe and Temmy Batoyun


Teaching contemplative neuroscience is emerging as a way to increase the reach and relevance of our field to a wider undergraduate population while also encouraging the beneficial practice of contemplation.  In-person classes on the topic have been shown to improve both academic learning and attitudes towards science and meditation.  Here we show that a short-term, asynchronous online course in contemplative neuroscience had comparable benefits.

Students completed the Determinants of Meditation Practice Inventory (DMPI; Williams et al., 2011) and the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS; Brown and Ryan, 2003) at the start and end of the course.  Their scores showed reduced barriers to meditation and improved mindfulness after the course, changes predictive of a range of positive behavioral and well-being outcomes.  Students also rated the course as highly effective in advancing neuroscience understanding and competency.  A comparison group (from an online general psychology class) showed no increase in mindfulness and a significantly weaker reduction in meditation barriers.

This success of an online class in both academic and social-emotional learning is promising given the rapid growth of online instruction and the improved access it can provide to non-traditional students.  The class format together with its health-relevant topic could thus be a valuable tool for reaching a more diverse student body while at the same time promoting practices linked to both personal and societal benefits.