Combatting Anxiousness for Learning Minds (CALM) | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Combatting Anxiousness for Learning Minds (CALM)

The CALM Study

Ethics Approval Number: S181226

Combatting Anxiousness for Learning Minds (CALM) is an intervention study investigating how anxiousness impacts attention in children aged nine to eleven years.

Our goal is to better understand the brain of children in late to middle childhood and use this knowledge to improve youth mental health.

The study recruited 94 participants during 2019 and early 2020. Recruitment is now complete for the CALM Study. Data analysis has been completed.

Of interest, half the student participants completed their second assessment during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, so we are interested in how the pandemic has impacted anxiety and attention levels for some of the CALM study participants.

CALM Study participants completed a 10-week mindfulness intervention in between two assessments. Each assessment included a block of neurocognitive activities (self-report questionnaire, cognitive tasks, debrief session) and brain imaging (functional MRI).

This PhD study was led by Michelle Kennedy, who has worked with primary school-aged children for more than 20 years, supporting their social, emotional and academic development. Her extensive knowledge and experience offered parents and children participating in the study mindfulness strategies to assist with anxiousness and attention issues.

If your child missed out on the opportunity to be part of the CALM Study please refer to the below guided mindfulness sessions or the Smiling Mind app used by schools and parents to assist with development of mindfulness strategies.

Research findings

Results from the first of three planned scientific papers indicate there are gender differences in young participants during emotion processing and provides a neurobiological target for attention impairments in anxious children.

View the results published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

Results from the second of three planned scientific papers indicate a 10-week mindfulness intervention in children was associated with a reduction in anxiety related attention impairments, which corresponded to changes in functional connectivity of resting state networks.

View the results published in Brain Imaging and Behaviour.

Future Research

Dr Kennedy is currently working on translating her research into a school program to equip children with strategies to help identify stress triggers and ways to manage their stress. This program will be trialled in schools in 2023.

Guided mindfulness sessions

Dr Michelle Kennedy has released the below guided mindfulness sessions for children, teens and adults.

Mindfulness practice is a way to experience what is happening in the present moment. It helps us become aware of our thoughts and feelings without distraction or judgement. Research shows mindfulness can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, by rewiring connections in the brain to help manage emotions such as worry and stress.