This study describes the effects of an 8-week course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR; J. Kabat-Zinn, 1982, 1990) on affective symptoms (depression and anxiety), dysfunctional attitudes, and rumination. Given the focus of mindfulness meditation (MM) in modifying cognitive processes, it was hypothesized that the primary change in MM practice involves reductions in ruminative tendencies. We studied a sample of individuals with lifetime mood disorders who were assessed prior to and upon completion of an MBSR course. We also compared a waitlist sample matched with a subset of the MBSR completers. Overall, the results suggest that MM practice primarily leads to decreases in ruminative thinking, even after controlling for reductions in affective symptoms and dysfunctional beliefs.
During selective attention, ∼7–14 Hz alpha rhythms are modulated in early sensory cortices, suggesting a mechanistic role for these dynamics in perception. Here, we investigated whether alpha modulation can be enhanced by “mindfulness” meditation (MM), a program training practitioners in sustained attention to body and breath-related sensations. We hypothesized that participants in the MM group would exhibit enhanced alpha power modulation in a localized representation in the primary somatosensory neocortex in response to a cue, as compared to participants in the control group. Healthy subjects were randomized to 8-weeks of MM training or a control group. Using magnetoencephalographic (MEG) recording of the SI finger representation, we found meditators demonstrated enhanced alpha power modulation in response to a cue. This finding is the first to show enhanced local alpha modulation following sustained attentional training, and implicates this form of enhanced dynamic neural regulation in the behavioral effects of meditative practice.
OBJECTIVE: To examine yoga's effects on inner-city children's well-being. METHODS: This pilot study compared fourth- and fifth-grade students at 2 after-school programs in Bronx, New York. One program offered yoga 1 hour per week for 12 weeks (yoga) and the other program (non-yoga) did not. Preintervention and postintervention emotional well-being was assessed by Harter's Global Self-Worth and Physical Appearance subscales, which were the study's primary outcome measures. Secondary outcomes included other measures of emotional well-being assessed by 2 new scales: Perceptions of Physical Health and Yoga Teachings (including Negative Behaviors, Positive Behaviors, and Focusing/relaxation subscales). Preintervention and postintervention, physical wellbeing was assessed by measures of flexibility and balance. Subjective ratings ofyoga's effects on well-being were evaluated by an additional questionnaire completed by the yoga group only. RESULTS: Data were collected from 78% (n=39) and 86.5% (n=32) of potential yoga and non-yoga study enrollees. No differences in baseline demographics were found. Controlling for preintervention well-being differences using analysis of covariance, we found that children in the yoga group had better postintervention Negative Behaviors scores and balance than the non-yoga group (P < .05). The majority of children participating in yoga reported enhanced wellbeing, as reflected by perceived improvements in behaviors directly targeted by yoga (e.g., strength, flexibility, balance). CONCLUSIONS: Although no significant differences were found in the study's primary outcomes (global self-worth and perceptions of physical well-being), children participating in yoga reported using fewer negative behaviors in response to stress and had better balance than a comparison group. Improvements in wellbeing, specifically in behaviors directly targeted by yoga, were reported. These results suggest a possible role of yoga as a preventive intervention as well as a means of improving children's perceived well-being.
Occupational therapists use school-based yoga programs, but these interventions typically lack manualization and evidence from well-designed studies. Using an experimental pretest–posttest control group design, we examined the effectiveness of the Get Ready to Learn (GRTL) classroom yoga program among children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The intervention group received the manualized yoga program daily for 16 wk, and the control group engaged in their standard morning routine. We assessed challenging behaviors with standardized measures and behavior coding before and after intervention. We completed a between-groups analysis of variance to assess differences in gain scores on the dependent variables. Students in the GRTL program showed significant decreases (p < .05) in teacher ratings of maladaptive behavior, as measured with the Aberrant Behavior Checklist, compared with the control participants. This study demonstrates that use of daily classroomwide yoga interventions has a significant impact on key classroom behaviors among children with ASD.
Prior research has demonstrated that people who are more connected with nature report more subjective well-being. However, guided by the sensitization model of well-being, we expected that the positive relation between connectedness with nature and psychological well-being would only be significant for those who tend to engage in nature's beauty (i.e., experience positive emotional responses when witnessing nature's beauty). In Study 1, we found the positive relation between connectedness with nature and life satisfaction was only significant for individuals higher, and not those lower, on engagement with natural beauty. Study 2 conceptually replicated this finding using self-esteem as an outcome. Moreover, the results were not affected by age, gender, Big Five personality traits (Study 1) or social desirability (Study 2). Thus, the current research extends past literature and demonstrates that connectedness with nature only predicts well-being when individuals are also emotionally attuned to nature's beauty.
<p>In two prior studies, we investigated the neural mechanisms of spatial attention using a combined event-related potential (ERP) and positron emission tomography (PET) approach (Heinze et al. : Nature 392:543-546; Mangun et al. : Hum Brain Mapp 5:273-279). Neural activations in extrastriate cortex were observed in the PET measures for attended stimuli, and these effects were related to attentional modulations in the ERPs at specific latencies. The present study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and ERPs in single subjects to investigate the intersubject variability in extrastriate spatial attention effects, and to qualitatively compare this to variations in ERP attention effects. Activations in single subjects replicated our prior group-averaged PET findings, showing attention-related increases in blood flow in the posterior fusiform and middle occipital gyri in the hemisphere contralateral to attended visual stimuli. All subjects showed attentional modulations of the occipital P1 component of the ERPs. These findings in single subjects demonstrate the consistency of extrastriate attention effects, and provide information about the feasibility of this approach for integration of electrical and functional imaging data.</p>
<p>OBJECTIVES: Given the demands of caring for chronically ill children, it is not surprising that caregivers often experience high levels of chronic stress. A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program may offer relief to these caregivers by providing tools for self-care and heath promotion that otherwise may be lacking. METHODS: MBSR classes were offered without restriction to parents of children attending various clinics at a large urban children's medical centre. Caregivers completed the Profile of Mood States (POMS) and Symptoms of Stress Inventory (SOSI) both before and after program participation. RESULTS: Forty-four caregivers participated in one of seven group MBSR sessions that were offered between August 2001 and February 2004. Most were mothers of children with special needs and various chronic conditions, who had been diagnosed an average of 7 years previous. Prior to the intervention, caregivers reported very high levels of stress and mood disturbance. These decreased substantially over the 8-week program, with an overall reduction in stress symptoms of 32% (p < .001), and in total mood disturbance of 56% (p < .001). CONCLUSIONS: This brief MBSR program for caregivers of chronically ill children was successful in significantly decreasing substantial stress symptoms and mood disturbance. Further studies would benefit from using more rigorous methodology and applying the program to other groups of chronically stressed caregivers.</p>
<p>A number of issues important to the clinical utility of mindfulness require systematic study. These include the most parsimonious definition of mindfulness for clinical purposes, how mindfulness is best described to be most approachable to patients, and the extent to which mindfulness shares common mechanisms with other mind-body programs. The discussion includes a brief review of the transition of mindfulness from traditional into clinical settings as well as the components commonly contained within clinical descriptions of mindfulness. A model based on facility in the use of attention is proposed, and a description of mechanisms by which attentional skill may lead to the recognition of internal associational processes and account for psychological outcomes is given. Using constructs already familiar to patients, an attention-based conception may also be more accessible to patients than more elaborate descriptions and have greater utility in identifying commonalities that mindfulness training may have with other mind-body programs.</p>
Many recent behavioral and neuroscientific studies have revealed the importance of investigating meditation states and traits to achieve an increased understanding of cognitive and affective neuroplasticity, attention and self-awareness, as well as for their increasingly recognized clinical relevance. The investigation of states and traits related to meditation has especially pronounced implications for the neuroscience of attention, consciousness, self-awareness, empathy and theory of mind. In this article we present the main features of meditation-based mental training and characterize the current scientific approach to meditation states and traits with special reference to attention and consciousness, in light of the articles contributed to this issue.
In this paper I discuss how expressive behavior relates to personality and psychopathology, integrating recent findings from my laboratory and the insights of Charles Darwin on this topic. In the first part of the paper I challenge the view, in part espoused by Darwin, that humans are equipped to convey only a limited number of emotions with nonverbal behavior. Our lab has documented displays for several emotions, including embarrassment, love, desire, compassion, gratitude, and awe, to name just a few states that previously were thought not to possess a distinct display. I then present an argument for how individual differences in emotion, although fleeting, shape the social environment. This argument focuses on the functions of nonverbal display: to provide information to others, to evoke responses, and to serve as incentives of preceding or ensuing social behavior. This reasoning sets the stage for the study of the relationships between personality, psychopathology, and expressive behavior, to which I turn in the final part of the paper. Here I show that basic personality traits (e.g., extraversion, agreeableness) and psychological disorders (e.g., externalizing disorder in children, autism) have expressive signatures that shape social interactions and environments in profound ways that might perpetuate and transmit the trait or disorder.
BACKGROUND: Two core characteristics of pathologic fear are its rapid onset and resistance to cognitive regulation. We hypothesized that activation of the amygdala early in the presentation of fear-relevant visual stimuli would distinguish phobics from nonphobics. METHODS: Chronometry of amygdala activation to phobia-relevant pictures was assessed in 13 spider phobics and 14 nonphobics using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). RESULTS: Blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) responses in the amygdala early in picture processing consistently differentiated between phobic and nonphobic subjects, as well as between phobogenic and nonphobogenic stimuli among phobics. Furthermore, amygdalar BOLD responses associated with timing but not magnitude of activation predicted affective responses to phobogenic stimuli. Computational modeling procedures were used to identify patterns of neural activation in the amygdala that could yield the observed BOLD data. These data suggest that phobic responses were characterized by strong but brief amygdala responses, whereas nonphobic responses were weaker and more sustained. CONCLUSIONS: Results are discussed in the context of the amygdala's role in rapid threat detection and the vigilance-avoidance hypothesis of anxiety. These data highlight the importance of examining the neural substrates of the immediate impact of phobogenic stimuli for understanding pathological fear.
Previous research indicates that drug motivational systems are instantiated in structures that process information related to incentive, motivational drive, memorial, motor/habit, craving, and cognitive control processing. The present research tests the hypothesis that activity in such systems will be powerfully affected by the combination of drug anticipation and drug withdrawal. Event-related fMRI was used to examine activation in response to a preinfusion warning cue in two experimental sessions that manipulated withdrawal status. Significant cue-induced effects were seen in the caudate, ventral anterior nucleus of the thalamus, the insula, subcallosal gyrus, nucleus accumbens, and anterior cingulate. These results suggest that withdrawal and nicotine anticipation produce (1) different motor preparatory and inhibitory response processing and (2) different craving related processing.
High vs. low scorers on the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) were compared on measures of resting EEG activation asymmetry from frontal and parietal brain regions. Depressed subjects showed greater relative right frontal activation compared with nondepressed subjects. Parietal asymmetry did not distinguish between the groups. These data support the hypothesis of right hemisphere hyperactivation in the frontal region of depressed individuals and are consistent with the growing body of literature which suggests that the left and right frontal regions may be differentially specialized for particular positive and negative affects.
Individuals differ dramatically in the quality and intensity of their response to affectively evocative stimuli. On the basis of prior theory and research, we hypothesized that these individual differences are related to variation in activation of the left and right frontal brain regions. We recorded baseline brain electrical activity from subjects on two occasions 3 weeks apart. Immediately following the second recording, subjects were exposed to brief positive and negative emotional film clips. For subjects whose frontal asymmetry was stable across the 3-week period, greater left frontal activation was associated with reports of more intense positive affect in response to the positive films, whereas greater right frontal activation was associated with more intense reports of negative affect in response to the negative film clips. The methodological and theoretical implications of these data are discussed.
Major depression is a heterogeneous condition, and the search for neural correlates specific to clinically defined subtypes has been inconclusive. Theoretical considerations implicate frontostriatal, particularly subgenual prefrontal cortex (PFC), dysfunction in the pathophysiology of melancholia--a subtype of depression characterized by anhedonia--but no empirical evidence has been found yet for such a link. To test the hypothesis that melancholic, but not nonmelancholic depression, is associated with the subgenual PFC impairment, concurrent measurement of brain electrical (electroencephalogram, EEG) and metabolic (positron emission tomography, PET) activity were obtained in 38 unmedicated subjects with DSM-IV major depressive disorder (20 melancholic, 18 nonmelancholic subjects), and 18 comparison subjects. EEG data were analyzed with a tomographic source localization method that computed the cortical three-dimensional distribution of current density for standard frequency bands, allowing voxelwise correlations between the EEG and PET data. Voxel-based morphometry analyses of structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data were performed to assess potential structural abnormalities in melancholia. Melancholia was associated with reduced activity in the subgenual PFC (Brodmann area 25), manifested by increased inhibitory delta activity (1.5-6.0 Hz) and decreased glucose metabolism, which themselves were inversely correlated. Following antidepressant treatment, depressed subjects with the largest reductions in depression severity showed the lowest post-treatment subgenual PFC delta activity. Analyses of structural MRI revealed no group differences in the subgenual PFC, but in melancholic subjects, a negative correlation between gray matter density and age emerged. Based on preclinical evidence, we suggest that subgenual PFC dysfunction in melancholia may be associated with blunted hedonic response and exaggerated stress responsiveness.
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>BACKGROUND: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques were used to identify the neural circuitry underlying emotional processing in control and depressed subjects. Depressed subjects were studied before and after treatment with venlafaxine. This new technique provides a method to noninvasively image regional brain function with unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution. METHOD: Echo-planar imaging was used to acquire whole brain images while subjects viewed positively and negatively valenced visual stimuli. Two control subjects and two depressed subjects who met DSM-IV criteria for major depression were scanned at baseline and 2 weeks later. Depressed subjects were treated with venlafaxine after the baseline scan. RESULTS: Preliminary results from this ongoing study revealed three interesting trends in the data. Both depressed patients demonstrated considerable symptomatic improvement at the time of the second scan. Across control and depressed subjects, the negative compared with the positive pictures elicited greater global activation. In both groups, activation induced by the negative pictures decreased from the baseline scan to the 2-week scan. This decrease in activation was also present in the control subjects when they were exposed to the positive pictures. In contrast, when the depressed subjects were presented with the positive pictures they showed no activation at baseline, whereas after 2 weeks of treatment an area of activation emerged in right secondary visual cortex. CONCLUSION: While preliminary, these results demonstrate the power of using fMRI to study emotional processes in normal and depressed subjects and to examine mechanisms of action of antidepressant drugs.</p>
It is the central hypothesis of this paper that the mental states commonly referred to as altered states of consciousness are principally due to transient prefrontal cortex deregulation. Supportive evidence from psychological and neuroscientific studies of dreaming, endurance running, meditation, daydreaming, hypnosis, and various drug-induced states is presented and integrated. It is proposed that transient hypofrontality is the unifying feature of all altered states and that the phenomenological uniqueness of each state is the result of the differential viability of various frontal circuits. Using an evolutionary approach, consciousness is conceptualized as hierarchically ordered cognitive function. Higher-order structures perform increasingly integrative functions and thus contribute more sophisticated content. Although this implies a holistic approach to consciousness, such a functional hierarchy localizes the most sophisticated layers of consciousness in the zenithal higher-order structure: the prefrontal cortex. The hallmark of altered states of consciousness is the subtle modification of behavioral and cognitive functions that are typically ascribed to the prefrontal cortex. The theoretical framework presented yields a number of testable hypotheses.
<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: The broad autism phenotype includes subclinical autistic characteristics found to have a higher prevalence in unaffected family members of individuals with autism. These characteristics primarily affect the social aspects of language, communication, and human interaction. The current research focuses on possible neurobehavioral characteristics associated with the broad autism phenotype. METHODS: We used a face-processing task associated with atypical patterns of gaze fixation and brain function in autism while collecting brain functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and eye tracking in unaffected siblings of individuals with autism. RESULTS: We found robust differences in gaze fixation and brain function in response to images of human faces in unaffected siblings compared with typically developing control individuals. The siblings' gaze fixations and brain activation patterns during the face processing task were similar to that of the autism group and showed decreased gaze fixation along with diminished fusiform activation compared with the control group. Furthermore, amygdala volume in the siblings was similar to the autism group and was significantly reduced compared with the control group. CONCLUSIONS: Together, these findings provide compelling evidence for differences in social/emotional processing and underlying neural circuitry in siblings of individuals with autism, supporting the notion of unique endophenotypes associated with the broad autism phenotype.
Recent studies have identified a distributed network of brain regions thought to support cognitive reappraisal processes underlying emotion regulation in response to affective images, including parieto-temporal regions and lateral/medial regions of prefrontal cortex (PFC). A number of these commonly activated regions are also known to underlie visuospatial attention and oculomotor control, which raises the possibility that people use attentional redeployment rather than, or in addition to, reappraisal as a strategy to regulate emotion. We predicted that a significant portion of the observed variance in brain activation during emotion regulation tasks would be associated with differences in how participants visually scan the images while regulating their emotions. We recorded brain activation using fMRI and quantified patterns of gaze fixation while participants increased or decreased their affective response to a set of affective images. fMRI results replicated previous findings on emotion regulation with regulation differences reflected in regions of PFC and the amygdala. In addition, our gaze fixation data revealed that when regulating, individuals changed their gaze patterns relative to a control condition. Furthermore, this variation in gaze fixation accounted for substantial amounts of variance in brain activation. These data point to the importance of controlling for gaze fixation in studies of emotion regulation that use visual stimuli.
Although there are many imaging studies on traditional ROI-based amygdala volumetry, there are very few studies on modeling amygdala shape variations. This paper presents a unified computational and statistical framework for modeling amygdala shape variations in a clinical population. The weighted spherical harmonic representation is used to parameterize, smooth out, and normalize amygdala surfaces. The representation is subsequently used as an input for multivariate linear models accounting for nuisance covariates such as age and brain size difference using the SurfStat package that completely avoids the complexity of specifying design matrices. The methodology has been applied for quantifying abnormal local amygdala shape variations in 22 high functioning autistic subjects.
<p>With each eye fixation, we experience a richly detailed visual world. Yet recent work on visual integration and change direction reveals that we are surprisingly unaware of the details of our environment from one view to the next: we often do not detect large changes to objects and scenes ('change blindness'). Furthermore, without attention, we may not even perceive objects ('inattentional blindness'). Taken together, these findings suggest that we perceive and remember only those objects and details that receive focused attention. In this paper, we briefly review and discuss evidence for these cognitive forms of 'blindness'. We then present a new study that builds on classic studies of divided visual attention to examine inattentional blindness for complex objects and events in dynamic scenes. Our results suggest that the likelihood of noticing an unexpected object depends on the similarity of that object to other objects in the display and on how difficult the priming monitoring task is. Interestingly, spatial proximity of the critical unattended object to attended locations does not appear to affect detection, suggesting that observers attend to objects and events, not spatial positions. We discuss the implications of these results for visual representations and awareness of our visual environment.</p>
Many objects typically occur in particular locations, and object words encode these spatial associations. We tested whether such object words (e.g., head, foot) orient attention toward the location where the denoted object typically occurs (i.e., up, down). Because object words elicit perceptual simulations of the denoted objects (i.e., the representations acquired during actual perception are reactivated), we predicted that an object word would interfere with identification of an unrelated visual target subsequently presented in the object's typical location. Consistent with this prediction, three experiments demonstrated that words denoting objects that typically occur high in the visual field hindered identification of targets appearing at the top of the display, whereas words denoting low objects hindered target identification at the bottom of the display. Thus, object words oriented attention to and activated perceptual simulations in the objects' typical locations. These results shed new light on how language affects perception.