Mindfulness training courses are to come under the microscope in the coming months as a new study gets under way to assess the effectiveness of such techniques in schools.

Launched by The Wellcome Trust, the 6.4 million research programme will be carried out by the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, the University of Exeter, the University of Oxford and UCL over some seven years.

To be carried out in three parts, the study will include the first large-size randomised control trial of the practice compared with more typical teaching methods in 76 schools around the UK, involving almost 6,000 young people aged between 11 and 14.

It intends to determine whether mindfulness can actually help to reduce the risk of mental health conditions like depression in teenagers by improving their abilities with regards to problem-solving skills, behavioural impulses or controlling intrusive thoughts.

Principal investigator from UCL professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore said: “It is becoming clear to neuroscientists that the early teenage years are a crucial time for brain development, particularly in brain regions responsible for decision-making, emotion regulation and social understanding.”

This comes after University of British Columbia researchers found that fourth and fifth graders who practised mindfulness techniques were better able to handle stress and appeared to be more optimistic and helpful than people who did not. In addition, they were better liked by their peers than children who took part in caring programmes that did not feature mindfulness. Maths ability also seemed to be positively affected as well.