Attention to internal bodily sensations is a core feature of mindfulness meditation. Previous studies have not detected differences in interoceptive accuracy between meditators and nonmeditators on heartbeat detection and perception tasks. We compared differences in respiratory interoceptive accuracy between meditators and nonmeditators in the ability to detect and discriminate respiratory resistive loads and sustain accurate perception of respiratory tidal volume during nondistracted and distracted conditions. Groups did not differ in overall performance on the detection and discrimination tasks; however, meditators were more accurate in discriminating the resistive load with the lowest ceiling effect. Meditators were also more accurate during the nondistracted tracking task at a lag time of 1 s following the breath. Results provide initial support for the notion that meditators have greater respiratory interoceptive accuracy compared to nonmeditators.
The relation between brain activity and the immune system was evaluated by assessing immune responses in 20 healthy women who manifested extreme differences in the asymmetry of frontal cortex activation. One group showed extreme and stable left frontal activation; the other group showed extreme and stable right frontal activation. As predicted, women with extreme right frontal activation had significantly lower levels of natural killer cell activity (at effector:target cell ratios of 33:1 and 11:1) than did left frontally activated individuals. This difference did not extend to two other immune measures, lymphocyte proliferation and T-cell subsets. However, higher immunoglobulin levels of the M class were observed in the right frontal group. In this study, the immune patterns could not be accounted for by plasma cortisol levels, anxiety- and depression-related symptomatology, or recent health histories. These findings support the hypothesis that there is a specific association between frontal brain asymmetry and certain immune responses.
Examined whether certain features of infant temperament might be related to individual differences in the asymmetry of resting frontal activation. EEG was recorded from the left and right frontal and parietal scalp regions of 13 normal 10-month-old infants. Infant behavior was then observed during a brief period of maternal separation. Those infants who cried in response to maternal separation showed greater right frontal activation during the preceding baseline period compared with infants who did not cry. Frontal activation asymmetry may be a state-independent marker for individual differences in threshold of reactivity to stressful events and vulnerability to particular emotions.
<p>It is well known that the eating patterns that restrain chronic dieters (restrained eaters) can be disinhibited by anxiety, which in turn has been associated with relative right frontal brain activity in independent electroencephalographic (EEG) studies. Combining these two lines of evidence, the authors tested the hypothesis that chronic restrained eating is associated with relative right frontal asymmetry. Resting anterior brain asymmetry and self-reported measures of anxiety and depression were collected in 23 restrained and 32 unrestrained eaters. As hypothesized, groups differed in tonic frontal activity, with restrained eaters showing more relative right frontal activity. Furthermore, relative right frontal activity was associated with greater self-reported restraint. Right-sided prefrontal asymmetry may thus represent a diathesis associated with increased vulnerability toward restrained eating.</p>
BACKGROUND: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) holds promise as a noninvasive means of identifying neural responses that can be used to predict treatment response before beginning a drug trial. Imaging paradigms employing facial expressions as presented stimuli have been shown to activate the amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Here, we sought to determine whether pretreatment amygdala and rostral ACC (rACC) reactivity to facial expressions could predict treatment outcomes in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). METHODS: Fifteen subjects (12 female subjects) with GAD participated in an open-label venlafaxine treatment trial. Functional magnetic resonance imaging responses to facial expressions of emotion collected before subjects began treatment were compared with changes in anxiety following 8 weeks of venlafaxine administration. In addition, the magnitude of fMRI responses of subjects with GAD were compared with that of 15 control subjects (12 female subjects) who did not have GAD and did not receive venlafaxine treatment. RESULTS: The magnitude of treatment response was predicted by greater pretreatment reactivity to fearful faces in rACC and lesser reactivity in the amygdala. These individual differences in pretreatment rACC and amygdala reactivity within the GAD group were observed despite the fact that 1) the overall magnitude of pretreatment rACC and amygdala reactivity did not differ between subjects with GAD and control subjects and 2) there was no main effect of treatment on rACC-amygdala reactivity in the GAD group. CONCLUSIONS: These findings show that this pattern of rACC-amygdala responsivity could prove useful as a predictor of venlafaxine treatment response in patients with GAD.
<p>In this commentary I discuss the integration of mindful procedures in cognitive therapy of generalized anxiety disorder (CAD) and attempt to answer questions concerning the effects of mindfulness on information processing and on mechanisms purported to maintain CAD in the meta-cognitive model of this disorder. Different techniques that promote mindfulness can be identified, including mindfulness meditation and attention training. These techniques are intended to disrupt repetitive styles of dysfunctional thinking. I argue that the effect of mindfulness strategies on information processing in emotional disorder can be conceptualized in meta-cognitive terms as (a) activating a meta-cognitive mode of processing; (b) disconnecting the influence of maladaptive beliefs on processing; (c) strengthening flexible responding to threat; and (d) strengthening meta-cognitive plans for controlling cognition. Although mindfulness meditation may have general treatment applications, the meta-cognitive model of CAD suggests caution in using this treatment in CAD. It is unclear which dimension of worry should be targeted, and mindfulness meditation does not contain information that can lead to unambiguous disconfirmation of erroneous beliefs about worry.</p>
BACKGROUND: Although it has been hypothesized that glucocorticoid hypersecretion in depressed patients leads to neuronal atrophy in the hippocampus, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) -based morphometry studies of the hippocampus to date have produced mixed results. METHODS: In our MRI study, hippocampal volumes were measured in 25 depressed patients (13 with melancholia and 12 without melancholia) and 15 control subjects. RESULTS: No significant differences in hippocampus volumes were found between any of the subject groups, although within subjects right hippocampal volumes were found to be significantly larger than left hippocampal volumes. Additionally, right and total (left + right) hippocampal volumes in control and depressed subjects were found to be positively correlated with trait anxiety as measured by the state/trait anxiety inventory. CONCLUSIONS: Because our subject group is younger than those in studies reporting hippocampal atrophy, we conclude that longitudinal studies will be necessary for investigation of the lifelong course of hippocampal volumetry.
Cultivation of mindfulness, the nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment, produces beneficial effects on well-being and ameliorates psychiatric and stress-related symptoms. Mindfulness meditation has therefore increasingly been incorporated into psychotherapeutic interventions. Although the number of publications in the field has sharply increased over the last two decades, there is a paucity of theoretical reviews that integrate the existing literature into a comprehensive theoretical framework. In this article, we explore several components through which mindfulness meditation exerts its effects: (a) attention regulation, (b) body awareness, (c) emotion regulation (including reappraisal and exposure, extinction, and reconsolidation), and (d) change in perspective on the self. Recent empirical research, including practitioners’ self-reports and experimental data, provides evidence supporting these mechanisms. Functional and structural neuroimaging studies have begun to explore the neuroscientific processes underlying these components. Evidence suggests that mindfulness practice is associated with neuroplastic changes in the anterior cingulate cortex, insula, temporo-parietal junction, fronto-limbic network, and default mode network structures. The authors suggest that the mechanisms described here work synergistically, establishing a process of enhanced self-regulation. Differentiating between these components seems useful to guide future basic research and to specifically target areas of development in the treatment of psychological disorders.
Two hundred and nine pupils were randomly allocated to either a cognitive behaviourally based stress management intervention (SMI) group, or a non-intervention control group. Mood and motivation measures were administered pre and post intervention. Standardized examinations were taken 8–10 weeks later. As hypothesized, results indicated that an increase in the functionality of pupils’ cognitions served as the mechanism by which mental health improved in the SMI group. In contrast, the control group demonstrated no such improvements. Also, as predicted, an increase in motivation accounted for the SMI group's significantly better performance on the standardized, academic assessments that comprise the United Kingdom's General Certificate of Secondary Education. Indeed, the magnitude of this enhanced performance was, on average, one-letter grade. Discussion focuses on the theoretical and practical implications of these findings.
<p>A long-standing problem in stress research has been that individuals' reports of their tendencies to become anxious are often inconsistent with relevant behavioral and physiological indices. This study investigated the distinction between (a) truly low-anxious Ss, who report low trait anxiety on the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale and low defensiveness on the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale, and (b) repressors, who report low anxiety but high defensiveness. These groups were compared with a moderately high-anxious one. Heart rate, spontaneous skin resistance responses, and forehead muscle tension were recorded from 40 male college students during a phrase association task. Significant differences in the 3 physiological measures as well as in 3 behavioral ones (reaction time, content avoidance, and verbal interference) all indicated that the repressors were more stressed than the low-anxious Ss despite their claims of lower trait anxiety. The high-anxious group exhibited a 3rd pattern suggesting an intermediate level of anxious responding. These data document the need to distinguish between repressors and truly low-anxious persons in research concerned with relations between self-reported anxiety and behavioral and physiological responses to stress. (42 ref)</p>
Patients in the placebo arms of randomized controlled trials (RCT) often experience positive changes from baseline. While multiple theories concerning such “placebo effects” exist, peculiarly, none has been informed by actual interviews of patients undergoing placebo treatment. Here, we report on a qualitative study (n = 27) embedded within a RCT (n = 262) in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Besides identical placebo acupuncture treatment in the RCT, the qualitative study patients also received an additional set of interviews at the beginning, midpoint, and end of the trial. Interviews of the 12 qualitative subjects who underwent and completed placebo treatment were transcribed. We found that patients (1) were persistently concerned with whether they were receiving placebo or genuine treatment; (2) almost never endorsed “expectation” of improvement but spoke of “hope” instead and frequently reported despair; (3) almost all reported improvement ranging from dramatic psychosocial changes to unambiguous, progressive symptom improvement to tentative impressions of benefit; and (4) often worried whether their improvement was due to normal fluctuations or placebo effects. The placebo treatment was a problematic perturbation that provided an opportunity to reconstruct the experiences of the fluctuations of their illness and how it disrupted their everyday life. Immersion in this RCT was a co-mingling of enactment, embodiment and interpretation involving ritual performance and evocative symbols, shifts in bodily sensations, symptoms, mood, daily life behaviors, and social interactions, all accompanied by self-scrutiny and re-appraisal. The placebo effect involved a spectrum of factors and any single theory of placebo—e.g. expectancy, hope, conditioning, anxiety reduction, report bias, symbolic work, narrative and embodiment—provides an inadequate model to explain its salubrious benefits.
<p>Patients in the placebo arms of randomized controlled trials (RCT) often experience positive changes from baseline. While multiple theories concerning such “placebo effects” exist, peculiarly, none has been informed by actual interviews of patients undergoing placebo treatment. Here, we report on a qualitative study (n = 27) embedded within a RCT (n = 262) in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Besides identical placebo acupuncture treatment in the RCT, the qualitative study patients also received an additional set of interviews at the beginning, midpoint, and end of the trial. Interviews of the 12 qualitative subjects who underwent and completed placebo treatment were transcribed. We found that patients (1) were persistently concerned with whether they were receiving placebo or genuine treatment; (2) almost never endorsed “expectation” of improvement but spoke of “hope” instead and frequently reported despair; (3) almost all reported improvement ranging from dramatic psychosocial changes to unambiguous, progressive symptom improvement to tentative impressions of benefit; and (4) often worried whether their improvement was due to normal fluctuations or placebo effects. The placebo treatment was a problematic perturbation that provided an opportunity to reconstruct the experiences of the fluctuations of their illness and how it disrupted their everyday life. Immersion in this RCT was a co-mingling of enactment, embodiment and interpretation involving ritual performance and evocative symbols, shifts in bodily sensations, symptoms, mood, daily life behaviors, and social interactions, all accompanied by self-scrutiny and re-appraisal. The placebo effect involved a spectrum of factors and any single theory of placebo – e.g. expectancy, hope, conditioning, anxiety reduction, report bias, symbolic work, narrative and embodiment – provides an inadequate model to explain its salubrious benefits.</p>
Abstract Mindfulness has been incorporated into several treatment approaches for psychopathology. Despite the popularity of this approach, relatively few empirical investigations have examined the relationship between mindfulness and autonomic indicators of flexible emotion regulation, such as heart rate variability (HRV). Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) has been associated with both low levels of mindfulness and HRV. In this investigation, we examined the relationship between HRV and mindfulness in the context of elevated generalized anxiety (GA) symptoms—an analog for GAD—by examining whether GA level moderated this relationship. HRV was collected while participants completed self-report measures of GA and trait mindfulness. GA level interacted with mindfulness in the prediction of HRV; in the high GA, but not low GA group, mindfulness was positively associated with HRV. This suggests that for individuals with high GA, mindfulness may enhance parasympathetic influences on the heart rate. We address the limitations of the current investigation and suggest avenues for future research on mindfulness-related changes in tonic and phasic HRV over time.
The high likelihood of recurrence in depression is linked to a progressive increase in emotional reactivity to stress (stress sensitization). Mindfulness-based therapies teach mindfulness skills designed to decrease emotional reactivity in the face of negative affect-producing stressors. The primary aim of the current study was to assess whether Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is efficacious in reducing emotional reactivity to social evaluative threat in a clinical sample with recurrent depression. A secondary aim was to assess whether improvement in emotional reactivity mediates improvements in depressive symptoms. Fifty-two individuals with partially remitted depression were randomized into an 8-week MBCT course or a waitlist control condition. All participants underwent the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) before and after the 8-week trial period. Emotional reactivity to stress was assessed with the Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory at several time points before, during, and after the stressor. MBCT was associated with decreased emotional reactivity to social stress, specifically during the recovery (post-stressor) phase of the TSST. Waitlist controls showed an increase in anticipatory (pre-stressor) anxiety that was absent in the MBCT group. Improvements in emotional reactivity partially mediated improvements in depressive symptoms. Limitations include small sample size, lack of objective or treatment adherence measures, and non-generalizability to more severely depressed populations. Given that emotional reactivity to stress is an important psychopathological process underlying the chronic and recurrent nature of depression, these findings suggest that mindfulness skills are important in adaptive emotion regulation when coping with stress.
<p>Mindfulness-based approaches are among the most innovative and interesting new approaches to mental health treatment. Mindfulness refers to patients developing an "awareness of present experience with acceptance." Interest in them is widespread, with presentations and workshops drawing large audiences all over the US and many other countries. This book provides a comprehensive introduction to the best-researched mindfulness-based treatments. It emphasizes detailed clinical illustration providing a close-up view of how these treatments are conducted, the skills required of therapists, and how they work. The book also has a solid foundation in theory and research and shows clearly how these treatments can be understood using accepted psychological principles and concepts. The evidence base for these treatments is concisely reviewed.* Comprehensive introduction to the best-researched mindfulness-based treatments* Covers wide range of problems & disorders (anxiety, depression, eating, psychosis, personality disorders, stress, pain, relationship problems, etc)* Discusses a wide range of populations (children, adolescents, older adults, couples)* Includes wide range of settings (outpatient, inpatient, medical, mental health, workplace)* Clinically rich, illustrative case study in every chapter* International perspectives represented (authors from US, Canada, Britain, Sweden)</p>
Twenty-seven adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse participated in a pilot study comprising an 8-week mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction (MBSR) program and daily home practice of mindfulness skills. Three refresher classes were provided through final follow-up at 24 weeks. Assessments of depressive symptoms, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and mindfulness, were conducted at baseline, 4, 8, and 24 weeks. At 8 weeks, depressive symptoms were reduced by 65%. Statistically significant improvements were observed in all outcomes post-MBSR, with effect sizes above 1.0. Improvements were largely sustained until 24 weeks. Of three PTSD symptom criteria, symptoms of avoidance/numbing were most greatly reduced. Compliance to class attendance and home practice was high, with the intervention proving safe and acceptable to participants. These results warrant further investigation of the MBSR approach in a randomized, controlled trial in this patient population. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Clin Psychol 66: 1–18, 2010.
Students with learning disabilities (LD; defined by compromised academic performance) often have higher levels of anxiety, school-related stress, and less optimal social skills compared with their typically developing peers. Previous health research indicates that meditation and relaxation training may be effective in reducing anxiety and promoting social skills. This pilot study used a pre—post no-control design to examine feasibility of, attitudes toward, and outcomes of a 5-week mindfulness meditation intervention administered to 34 adolescents diagnosed with LD. Postintervention survey responses overwhelmingly expressed positive attitudes toward the program. All outcome measures showed significant improvement, with participants who completed the program demonstrating decreased state and trait anxiety, enhanced social skills, and improved academic performance. Although not directly assessed, the outcomes are consistent with a cognitive-interference model of learning disability and suggest that mindfulness meditation decreases anxiety and detrimental self-focus of attention, which, in turn, promotes social skills and academic outcomes.
Anxiety is a debilitating symptom of many psychiatric disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, mood disorders, schizophrenia, and autism. Anxiety involves changes in both central and peripheral biology, yet extant functional imaging studies have focused exclusively on the brain. Here we show, using functional brain and cardiac imaging in sequential brain and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sessions in response to cues that predict either threat (a possible shock) or safety (no possibility of shock), that MR signal change in the amygdala and the prefrontal and insula cortices predicts cardiac contractility to the threat of shock. Participants with greater MR signal change in these regions show increased cardiac contractility to the threat versus safety condition, a measure of the sympathetic nervous system contribution to the myocardium. These findings demonstrate robust neural-cardiac coupling during induced anxiety and indicate that individuals with greater activation in brain regions identified with aversive emotion show larger magnitude cardiac contractility increases to threat.
Children with an anxious temperament (AT) are at risk for developing psychiatric disorders along the internalizing spectrum, including anxiety and depression. Like these disorders, AT is a multidimensional phenotype and children with extreme anxiety show varying mixtures of physiological, behavioral, and other symptoms. Using a well-validated juvenile monkey model of AT, we addressed the degree to which this phenotypic heterogeneity reflects fundamental differences or similarities in the underlying neurobiology. The rhesus macaque is optimal for studying AT because children and young monkeys express the anxious phenotype in similar ways and have similar neurobiology. Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) in 238 freely behaving monkeys identified brain regions where metabolism predicted variation in three dimensions of the AT phenotype: hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activity, freezing behavior, and expressive vocalizations. We distinguished brain regions that predicted all three dimensions of the phenotype from those that selectively predicted a single dimension. Elevated activity in the central nucleus of the amygdala and the anterior hippocampus was consistently found across individuals with different presentations of AT. In contrast, elevated activity in the lateral anterior hippocampus was selective to individuals with high levels of HPA activity, and decreased activity in the motor cortex (M1) was selective to those with high levels of freezing behavior. Furthermore, activity in these phenotype-selective regions mediated relations between amygdala metabolism and different expressions of anxiety. These findings provide a framework for understanding the mechanisms that lead to heterogeneity in the clinical presentation of internalizing disorders and set the stage for developing improved interventions.
In children, behavioral inhibition (BI) in response to potential threat predicts the development of anxiety and affective disorders, and primate lesion studies suggest involvement of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in mediating BI. Lesion studies are essential for establishing causality in brain-behavior relationships, but should be interpreted cautiously because the impact of a discrete lesion on a complex neural circuit extends beyond the lesion location. Complementary functional imaging methods assessing how lesions influence other parts of the circuit can aid in precisely understanding how lesions affect behavior. Using this combination of approaches in monkeys, we found that OFC lesions concomitantly alter BI and metabolism in the bed nucleus of stria terminalis (BNST) region and that individual differences in BNST activity predict BI. Thus it appears that an important function of the OFC in response to threat is to modulate the BNST, which may more directly influence the expression of BI.
Davidson and Schwartz (1) have proposed a psychobiological analysis of anxiety that emphasizes the patterning of multiple processes in the generation and self-regulation of this state. The present article specifically reviews recent research on cognitive and somatic components of anxiety. A dual component scale which separately assesses cognitive and somatic trait anxiety is described and applied to the study of the differential effects of a somatic (physical exercise) and a cognitive (meditation) relaxation procedure. A total of 77 subjects was employed; 44 regularly practiced physical exercise and 33 regularly practiced meditation for comparable periods of time. As predicted, subjects practicing physical exercise reported relatively less somatic and more cognitive anxiety than meditators. These data suggest that specific subcomponents of anxiety may be differentially associated with relaxation techniques engaging primarily cognitive versus somatic subsystems. It is proposed that relaxation consists of (1) a generalized reduction to multiple physiological systems (termed the relaxation response by Benson) and (2) a more specific pattern of changes superimposed upon this general reduction, which is elicited by the particular techniques employed. The data from this retrospective study need to be followed up by prospective studies to establish the precise mechanisms for these effects.
Children with a cancer diagnosis experience symptom distress, including anxiety, because of the disease and its treatment. Parents experience stress and anxiety because of the uncertainty of the disease as well as the suffering of their children. Yoga is a complementary intervention that has physiological and psychological benefits in healthy children and healthy and chronically ill adults. On an inpatient hematology/oncology unit, 11 children aged 6 to 12 years, 5 adolescents aged 13 to 18 years, and 33 parents participated in a single yoga session tailored to the needs and abilities of the patients and parents. Sense of well-being pre- and postclass was measured with the Spielberger State Anxiety Scale. Children had normal anxiety scores preclass that did not change. Adolescents and parents experienced significant decreases in anxiety scores, and all cohorts gave positive feedback about the experience. The authors conclude that yoga is a feasible intervention for this population and is beneficial to adolescents and parents.