Kurt K. Hubbard, Diane Blyler; Improving Academic Performance and Working Memory in Health Science Graduate Students Using Progressive Muscle Relaxation Training. Am J Occup Ther 2016;70(6):7006230010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.020644
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
Research involving working memory has indicated that stress and anxiety compete for attentional resources when a person engages in attention-dependent cognitive processing. The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of perceived stress and state anxiety on working memory and academic performance among health science students and to explore whether the reduction of stress and anxiety was achieved through progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) training. A convenience sample of 128 graduate students participated in this study. Using an experimental pretest–posttest design, we randomly assigned participants to a PMR group or a control group. Results indicated that PMR reduced state anxiety, F(1, 126) = 15.58, p < .001, thereby freeing up working memory and leading to improved academic performance in the treatment group. The results of this study contribute to the literature on Attentional Control Theory by clarifying the process through which working memory and anxiety affect cognitive performance.
How anxiety and stress affect academic performance, including cognitive mechanisms that are impaired during practical tests
How and why PMR could improve academic performance along with the mechanisms involved
How participating in relaxation techniques while enrolled in occupational therapy school could have a positive effect on quality of life.
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