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<p>Objective: The underlying changes in biological processes that are associated with reported changes in mental and physical health in response to meditation have not been systematically explored. We performed a randomized, controlled study on the effects on brain and immune function of a well-known and widely used 8-week clinical training program in mindfulness meditation appliedin a work environment with healthy employees. Methods: We measured brain electrical activity before and immediately after, and then 4 months after an 8-week training program in mindfulness meditation. Twenty-five subjects were tested in the meditation group. A wait-list control group (N 16) was tested at the same points in time as the meditators. At the end of the 8-week period, subjects in both groups were vaccinated with influenza vaccine. Results: We report for the first time significant increases in left-sided anterior activation, a pattern previously associated with positive affect, in the meditators compared with the nonmeditators. We also found significant increases in antibody titers to influenza vaccine among subjects in the meditation compared with those in the wait-list control group. Finally, the magnitude of increase in left-sided activation predicted the magnitude of antibody titer rise to the vaccine. Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function. These findings suggest that meditation may change brain and immune function in positive ways and underscore the need for additional research. Key words: meditation, mindfulness, EEG, immune function, brain asymmetry, influenza vaccine.</p>

Experientially opening oneself to pain rather than avoiding it is said to reduce the mind's tendency toward avoidance or anxiety which can further exacerbate the experience of pain. This is a central feature of mindfulness-based therapies. Little is known about the neural mechanisms of mindfulness on pain. During a meditation practice similar to mindfulness, functional magnetic resonance imaging was used in expert meditators (> 10,000 h of practice) to dissociate neural activation patterns associated with pain, its anticipation, and habituation. Compared to novices, expert meditators reported equal pain intensity, but less unpleasantness. This difference was associated with enhanced activity in the dorsal anterior insula (aI), and the anterior mid-cingulate (aMCC) the so-called ‘salience network’, for experts during pain. This enhanced activity during pain was associated with reduced baseline activity before pain in these regions and the amygdala for experts only. The reduced baseline activation in left aI correlated with lifetime meditation experience. This pattern of low baseline activity coupled with high response in aIns and aMCC was associated with enhanced neural habituation in amygdala and pain-related regions before painful stimulation and in the pain-related regions during painful stimulation. These findings suggest that cultivating experiential openness down-regulates anticipatory representation of aversive events, and increases the recruitment of attentional resources during pain, which is associated with faster neural habituation.

Meditation can be conceptualized as a family of complex emotional and attentional regulatory training regimes developed for various ends, including the cultivation of well-being and emotional balance. Among these various practices, there are two styles that are commonly studied. One style, focused attention meditation, entails the voluntary focusing of attention on a chosen object. The other style, open monitoring meditation, involves nonreactive monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment. The potential regulatory functions of these practices on attention and emotion processes could have a long-term impact on the brain and behavior.

Given the limited success of conventional treatments for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), investigations of alternative approaches are warranted. We examined the effects of a breathing-based meditation intervention, Sudarshan Kriya yoga, on PTSD outcome variables in U.S. male veterans of the Iraq or Afghanistan war. We randomly assigned 21 veterans to an active (n = 11) or waitlist control (n = 10) group. Laboratory measures of eye-blink startle and respiration rate were obtained before and after the intervention, as were self-report symptom measures; the latter were also obtained 1 month and 1 year later. The active group showed reductions in PTSD scores, d = 1.16, 95% CI [0.20, 2.04], anxiety symptoms, and respiration rate, but the control group did not. Reductions in startle correlated with reductions in hyperarousal symptoms immediately postintervention (r = .93, p < .001) and at 1-year follow-up (r = .77, p = .025). This longitudinal intervention study suggests there may be clinical utility for Sudarshan Kriya yoga for PTSD.

Mindfulness practices are increasingly being utilized as a method for cultivating well-being. The term mindfulness is often used as an umbrella for a variety of different practices and many mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) contain multiple styles of practice. Despite the diversity of practices within MBIs, few studies have investigated whether constituent practices produce specific effects. We randomized 156 undergraduates to one of four brief practices: breath awareness, loving-kindness, gratitude, or to an attention control condition. We assessed practice effects on affect following brief training, and effects on affect and behavior after provocation with a stressor (i.e., Cold pressor test). Results indicate that gratitude training significantly improved positive affect compared to breath awareness (d = 0.58) and loving-kindness led to significantly greater reductions in implicit negative affect compared to the control condition (d = 0.59) immediately after brief practice. In spite of gains in positive affect, the gratitude group demonstrated increased reactivity to the stressor, reporting the CPT as significantly more aversive than the control condition (d = 0.46) and showing significantly greater increases in negative affect compared to the breath awareness, loving-kindness, and control groups (ds = 0.55, 0.60, 0.65, respectively). Greater gains in implicit positive affect following gratitude training predicted decreased post-stressor likability ratings of novel neutral faces compared to breath awareness, loving-kindness, and control groups (ds = - 0.39, -0.40, -0.33, respectively) as well. Moreover, the gratitude group was significantly less likely to donate time than the loving-kindness group in an ecologically valid opportunity to provide unrewarded support. These data suggest that different styles of contemplative practice may produce different effects in the context of brief, introductory practice and these differences may be heightened by stress. Implications for the study of contemplative practices are discussed.

Mindfulness practices are increasingly being utilized as a method for cultivating well-being. The term mindfulness is often used as an umbrella for a variety of different practices and many mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) contain multiple styles of practice. Despite the diversity of practices within MBIs, few studies have investigated whether constituent practices produce specific effects. We randomized 156 undergraduates to one of four brief practices: breath awareness, loving-kindness, gratitude, or to an attention control condition. We assessed practice effects on affect following brief training, and effects on affect and behavior after provocation with a stressor (i.e., Cold pressor test). Results indicate that gratitude training significantly improved positive affect compared to breath awareness (d = 0.58) and loving-kindness led to significantly greater reductions in implicit negative affect compared to the control condition (d = 0.59) immediately after brief practice. In spite of gains in positive affect, the gratitude group demonstrated increased reactivity to the stressor, reporting the CPT as significantly more aversive than the control condition (d = 0.46) and showing significantly greater increases in negative affect compared to the breath awareness, loving-kindness, and control groups (ds = 0.55, 0.60, 0.65, respectively). Greater gains in implicit positive affect following gratitude training predicted decreased post-stressor likability ratings of novel neutral faces compared to breath awareness, loving-kindness, and control groups (ds = - 0.39, -0.40, -0.33, respectively) as well. Moreover, the gratitude group was significantly less likely to donate time than the loving-kindness group in an ecologically valid opportunity to provide unrewarded support. These data suggest that different styles of contemplative practice may produce different effects in the context of brief, introductory practice and these differences may be heightened by stress. Implications for the study of contemplative practices are discussed.

The Handbook of Affective Sciences is a comprehensive road map to the burgeoning area of affective sciences, which now spans several disciplines. Helping to delineate this emerging field, this volume brings together, for the first time, the various strands of inquiry and latest research in the scientific study of emotion and related affective phenomena. In recent years, scientists have made considerable advances in understanding how brain processes shape emotions and are changed by human emotion. There have also been major methodological advances in objectively measuring different parameters of emotion, ranging from expressive behavior to physiology to subjective experience using experience sampling. Drawing on a wide range of research and methods of inquiry-neuroimaging techniques, neuropsychological assessment, clinical research, and laboratory paradigms designed to assess the cognitive and social constituents of emotion-scientists are beginning to understand the many factors that shape emotion and the vast range of functions that are affected by emotion. As a result, researchers are gaining insight into such compelling questions as how people experience life emotionally, why people respond so differently to the same experiences, what the face can tell us about internal states, how emotion in significant social relationships influence health, and whether there are basic emotions common to all humans. This handbook brings together the most eminent scholars in the area of affective science, who lay out, in fifty-nine original chapters, the latest research and theorise in the field. The book is divided into ten sections: Neuroscience; Autonomic Psychophysiology; Genetics and Development; Expression of Emotion; Cognitive Components of Emotion; Personality; Emotion and Social Processes; Evolutionary and Cultural Perspective on Affect; Emotion and Psychopathology; and Emotion and Health. This major new volume will be an invaluable resource for researchers that will define affective sciences for the next decade.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) appears to be a promising intervention for the prevention of relapse in major depressive disorder, but its efficacy in patients with current depressive symptoms is less clear. Randomized clinical trials of MBCT for adult patients with current depressive symptoms were included (k = 13, N = 1046). Comparison conditions were coded based on whether they were intended to be therapeutic (specific active controls) or not (non-specific controls). MBCT was superior to non-specific controls at post-treatment (k = 10, d = 0.71, 95% confidence interval [CI] [0.47, 0.96]), although not at longest follow-up (k = 2, d = 1.47, [-0.71, 3.65], mean follow-up = 5.70 months across all studies with follow-up). MBCT did not differ from other active therapies at post-treatment (k = 6, d = 0.002, [-0.43, 0.44]) and longest follow-up (k = 4, d = 0.26, [-0.24, 0.75]). There was some evidence that studies with higher methodological quality showed smaller effects at post-treatment, but no evidence that effects varied by inclusion criterion. The impact of publication bias appeared minimal. MBCT seems to be efficacious for samples with current depressive symptoms at post-treatment, although a limited number of studies tested the long-term effects of this therapy.

Despite the crucial role of teachers in fostering children's academic learning and social–emotional well‐being, addressing teacher stress in the classroom remains a significant challenge in education. This study reports results from a randomized controlled pilot trial of a modified Mindfulness‐Based Stress Reduction course (mMBSR) adapted specifically for teachers. Results suggest that the course may be a promising intervention, with participants showing significant reductions in psychological symptoms and burnout, improvements in observer‐rated classroom organization and performance on a computer task of affective attentional bias, and increases in self‐compassion. In contrast, control group participants showed declines in cortisol functioning over time and marginally significant increases in burnout. Furthermore, changes in mindfulness were correlated in the expected direction with changes across several outcomes (psychological symptoms, burnout, and sustained attention) in the intervention group. Implications of these findings for the training and support of teachers are discussed.

Despite the crucial role of teachers in fostering children's academic learning and social-emotional well-being, addressing teacher stress in the classroom remains a significant challenge in education. The present study reports results from a randomized controlled pilot trial of a modified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course (mMBSR) adapted specifically for teachers. Results suggest the course may be a promising intervention, with participants showing significant reductions in psychological symptoms and burnout, improvements in observer-rated classroom organization and performance on a computer task of affective attentional bias, and increases in self-compassion. In contrast, control group participants showed declines in cortisol functioning over time and marginally significant increases in burnout. Furthermore, changes in mindfulness were correlated in the expected direction with changes across several outcomes (psychological symptoms, burnout, sustained attention) in the intervention group. Implications of these findings for the training and support of teachers are discussed.

Despite the crucial role of teachers in fostering children's academic learning and social-emotional well-being, addressing teacher stress in the classroom remains a significant challenge in education. The present study reports results from a randomized controlled pilot trial of a modified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course (mMBSR) adapted specifically for teachers. Results suggest the course may be a promising intervention, with participants showing significant reductions in psychological symptoms and burnout, improvements in observer-rated classroom organization and performance on a computer task of affective attentional bias, and increases in self-compassion. In contrast, control group participants showed declines in cortisol functioning over time and marginally significant increases in burnout. Furthermore, changes in mindfulness were correlated in the expected direction with changes across several outcomes (psychological symptoms, burnout, sustained attention) in the intervention group. Implications of these findings for the training and support of teachers are discussed.

By inviting the Dalai Lama and leading researchers in medicine, psychology, and neuroscience to join in conversation, the Mind & Life Institute set the stage for a fascinating exploration of the healing potential of the human mind. The Mind’s Own Physician presents in its entirety the 13th Mind & Life Dialogue, a discussion addressing a range of vital questions concerning the science and clinical applications of meditation: How do meditative practices influence pain and human suffering? What role does the brain play in emotional well-being and health? To what extent can our minds actually influence physical disease? Are there important synergies here for transforming health care, and for understanding our own evolutionary limitations as a species? This book presents this remarkably dynamic interchange along with intriguing research findings that shed light on the nature of the mind, its capacity to refine itself through training, and its role in physical and emotional health.

When science meets religion, the result can be explosive--or insightful. By inviting the Dalai Lama and leading neuroscience researchers to join in conversation, the Mind and Life Institute in Washington, DC, set the stage for a fascinating exploration of the potential of the human mind. This conference, recorded and transcribed for the first time in The Mind's Own Physician, answered the questions millions have asked about brain functioning: What can mindfulness do for me? Can our minds actually influence the outcomes of physical disease? How can we unlock the brain's potential without spending hours in meditation? The Dalai Lama poses many more questions about secular approaches to mindfulness, the brain biology of meditation, and meditation's relationship to mental and physical health, which are then answered by the preeminent meditation scholars, academics, and researchers in each specialty. Edited by world-renowned researchers Jon Kabat-Zinn and Richard Davidson, who also attended the conference, this book presents the full dialogue along with new research that sheds light on each topic that was discussed.

STUDY OBJECTIVES: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with significant alterations in neuronal integrity resulting from either hypoxemia and/or sleep loss. A large body of imaging research supports reductions in gray matter volume, alterations in white matter integrity and resting state activity, and functional abnormalities in response to cognitive challenge in various brain regions in patients with OSA. In this study, we used high-density electroencephalography (hdEEG), a functional imaging tool that could potentially be used during routine clinical care, to examine the regional distribution of neural activity in a non-clinical sample of untreated men and women with moderate/severe OSA.DESIGN: Sleep was recorded with 256-channel EEG in relatively healthy subjects with apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) > 10, as well as age-, sex-, and body mass index-matched controls selected from a research population initially recruited for a study on sleep and meditation. SETTING: Sleep laboratory. PATIENTS OR PARTICIPANTS: Nine subjects with AHI > 10 and nine matched controls. INTERVENTIONS: N/A. MEASUREMENTS AND RESULTS: Topographic analysis of hdEEG data revealed a broadband reduction in EEG power in a circumscribed region overlying the parietal cortex in OSA subjects. This parietal reduction in neural activity was present, to some extent, across all frequency bands in all stages and episodes of nonrapid eye movement sleep. CONCLUSION: This investigation suggests that regional deficits in electroencephalography (EEG) power generation may be a useful clinical marker for neural disruption in obstructive sleep apnea, and that high-density EEG may have the sensitivity to detect pathological cortical changes early in the disease process.

Recent brain imaging studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have implicated insula and anterior cingulate cortices in the empathic response to another's pain. However, virtually nothing is known about the impact of the voluntary generation of compassion on this network. To investigate these questions we assessed brain activity using fMRI while novice and expert meditation practitioners generated a loving-kindness-compassion meditation state. To probe affective reactivity, we presented emotional and neutral sounds during the meditation and comparison periods. Our main hypothesis was that the concern for others cultivated during this form of meditation enhances affective processing, in particular in response to sounds of distress, and that this response to emotional sounds is modulated by the degree of meditation training. The presentation of the emotional sounds was associated with increased pupil diameter and activation of limbic regions (insula and cingulate cortices) during meditation (versus rest). During meditation, activation in insula was greater during presentation of negative sounds than positive or neutral sounds in expert than it was in novice meditators. The strength of activation in insula was also associated with self-reported intensity of the meditation for both groups. These results support the role of the limbic circuitry in emotion sharing. The comparison between meditation vs. rest states between experts and novices also showed increased activation in amygdala, right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), and right posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) in response to all sounds, suggesting, greater detection of the emotional sounds, and enhanced mentation in response to emotional human vocalizations for experts than novices during meditation. Together these data indicate that the mental expertise to cultivate positive emotion alters the activation of circuitries previously linked to empathy and theory of mind in response to emotional stimuli.

Recent brain imaging studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have implicated insula and anterior cingulate cortices in the empathic response to another's pain. However, virtually nothing is known about the impact of the voluntary generation of compassion on this network. To investigate these questions we assessed brain activity using fMRI while novice and expert meditation practitioners generated a loving-kindness-compassion meditation state. To probe affective reactivity, we presented emotional and neutral sounds during the meditation and comparison periods. Our main hypothesis was that the concern for others cultivated during this form of meditation enhances affective processing, in particular in response to sounds of distress, and that this response to emotional sounds is modulated by the degree of meditation training. The presentation of the emotional sounds was associated with increased pupil diameter and activation of limbic regions (insula and cingulate cortices) during meditation (versus rest). During meditation, activation in insula was greater during presentation of negative sounds than positive or neutral sounds in expert than it was in novice meditators. The strength of activation in insula was also associated with self-reported intensity of the meditation for both groups. These results support the role of the limbic circuitry in emotion sharing. The comparison between meditation vs. rest states between experts and novices also showed increased activation in amygdala, right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), and right posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) in response to all sounds, suggesting, greater detection of the emotional sounds, and enhanced mentation in response to emotional human vocalizations for experts than novices during meditation. Together these data indicate that the mental expertise to cultivate positive emotion alters the activation of circuitries previously linked to empathy and theory of mind in response to emotional stimuli.

OBJECTIVE Deficits in positive affect and their neural bases have been associated with major depression. However, whether reductions in positive affect result solely from an overall reduction in nucleus accumbens activity and fronto-striatal connectivity or the additional inability to sustain engagement of this network over time is unknown. The authors sought to determine whether treatment-induced changes in the ability to sustain nucleus accumbens activity and fronto-striatal connectivity during the regulation of positive affect are associated with gains in positive affect. METHOD Using fMRI, the authors assessed the ability to sustain activity in reward-related networks when attempting to increase positive emotion during performance of an emotion regulation paradigm in 21 depressed patients before and after 2 months of antidepressant treatment. Over the same interval, 14 healthy comparison subjects underwent scanning as well. RESULTS After 2 months of treatment, self-reported positive affect increased. The patients who demonstrated the largest increases in sustained nucleus accumbens activity over the 2 months were those who demonstrated the largest increases in positive affect. In addition, the patients who demonstrated the largest increases in sustained fronto-striatal connectivity were also those who demonstrated the largest increases in positive affect when controlling for negative affect. None of these associations were observed in healthy comparison subjects. CONCLUSIONS Treatment-induced change in the sustained engagement of fronto-striatal circuitry tracks the experience of positive emotion in daily life. Studies examining reduced positive affect in a variety of psychiatric disorders might benefit from examining the temporal dynamics of brain activity when attempting to understand changes in daily positive affect.

Background Comorbidity among childhood mental health symptoms is common in clinical and community samples and should be accounted for when investigating etiology. We therefore aimed to uncover latent classes of mental health symptoms in middle childhood in a community sample, and to determine the latent genetic and environmental influences on those classes. Methods The sample comprised representative cohorts of twins. A questionnaire-based assessment of mental health symptoms was used in latent class analyses. Data on 3223 twins (1578 boys and 1645 girls) with a mean age of 7.5 years were analyzed. The sample was predominantly non-Hispanic Caucasian (92.1%). Results Latent class models delineated groups of children according to symptom profiles–not necessarily clinical groups but groups representing the general population, most with scores in the normative range. The best-fitting models suggested 9 classes for both girls and boys. Eight of the classes were very similar across sexes; these classes ranged from a “Low Symptom” class to a “Moderately Internalizing & Severely Externalizing” class. In addition, a “Moderately Anxious” class was identified for girls but not boys, and a “Severely Impulsive & Inattentive” class was identified for boys but not girls. Sex-combined analyses implicated moderate genetic influences for all classes. Shared environmental influences were moderate for the “Low Symptom” and “Moderately Internalizing & Severely Externalizing” classes, and small to zero for other classes. Conclusions We conclude that symptom classes are largely similar across sexes in middle childhood. Heritability was moderate for all classes, but shared environment played a greater role for classes in which no one type of symptom predominated.

Given the central role of the amygdala in fear perception and expression and its likely abnormality in affective disorders and autism, there is great demand for a technique to measure differences in neurochemistry of the human amygdala. Unfortunately, it is also a technically complex target for magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) due to a small volume, high field inhomogeneity and a shared boundary with hippocampus, which can undergo opposite changes in response to stress. We attempted to achieve reliable PRESS-localized single-voxel MRS at 3T of the isolated human amygdala by using anatomy to guide voxel size and location. We present data from 106 amygdala-MRS sessions from 58 volunteers aged 10 to 52 years, including two tests of one-week stability and a feasibility study in an adolescent sample. Our main outcomes were indices of spectral quality, repeated measurement variability (within- and between-subject standard deviations), and sensitivity to stable individual differences measured by intra-class correlation (ICC). We present metrics of amygdala-MRS reliability for n-acetyl-aspartate, creatine, choline, myo-Inositol, and glutamate+glutamine (Glx). We found that scan quality suffers an age-related difference in field homogeneity and modified our protocol to compensate. We further identified an effect of anatomical inclusion near the endorhinal sulcus, a region of high synaptic density, that contributes up to 29% of within-subject variability across 4 sessions (n=14). Remaining variability in line width but not signal-to-noise also detracts from reliability. Statistical correction for partial inclusion of these strong neurochemical gradients decreases n-acetyl-aspartate reliability from an intraclass correlation of 0.84 to 0.56 for 7-minute acquisitions. This suggests that systematic differences in anatomical inclusion can contribute greatly to apparent neurochemical concentrations and could produce false group differences in experimental studies. Precise, anatomically-based prescriptions that avoid age-related sources of inhomogeneity and use longer scan times may permit study of individual differences in neurochemistry throughout development in this late-maturing structure.

Compassion, the emotional response of caring for another who is suffering and that results in motivation to relieve suffering, is thought to be an emotional antecedent to altruistic behavior. However, it remains unclear whether compassion enhances altruistic behavior in a uniform way or is specific to sub-types of behavior such as altruistic helping of a victim or altruistic punishment of a transgressor. We investigated the relationship between compassion and subtypes of altruistic behavior using third-party paradigms where participants 1) witnessed an unfair economic exchange between a transgressor and a victim, and 2) had the opportunity to either spend personal funds to either economically a) help the victim or b) punish the transgressor. In Study 1, we examined whether individual differences in self-reported empathic concern (the emotional component of compassion) was associated with greater altruistic helping or punishment behavior in two independent samples. For participants who witnessed an unfair transaction, trait empathic concern was associated with greater helping of a victim and had no relationship to punishment. However, in those who decided to punish the transgressor, participants who reported greater empathic concern decided to punish less. In Study 2, we directly enhanced compassion using short-term online compassion meditation training to examine whether altruistic helping and punishment were increased after two weeks of training. Compared to an active reappraisal training control group, the compassion training group gave more to help the victim and did not differ in punishment of the transgressor. Together, these two studies suggest that compassion is related to greater altruistic helping of victims and is not associated with or may mitigate altruistic punishment of transgressors.

Most of the extant literature investigating the health effects of mindfulness interventions relies on wait-list control comparisons. The current article specifies and validates an active control condition, the Health Enhancement Program (HEP), thus providing the foundation necessary for rigorous investigations of the relative efficacy of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and for testing mindfulness as an active ingredient. 63 participants were randomized to either MBSR (n = 31) or HEP (n = 32). Compared to HEP, MBSR led to reductions in thermal pain ratings in the mindfulness- but not the HEP-related instruction condition (η2 = .18). There were significant improvements over time for general distress (η2 = .09), anxiety (η2 = .08), hostility (η2 = .07), and medical symptoms (η2 = .14), but no effects of intervention. Practice was not related to change. HEP is an active control condition for MBSR while remaining inert to mindfulness. These claims are supported by results from a pain task. Participant-reported outcomes (PROs) replicate previous improvements to well-being in MBSR, but indicate that MBSR is no more effective than a rigorous active control in improving these indices. These results emphasize the importance of using an active control condition like HEP in studies evaluating the effectiveness of MBSR.