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The spontaneous oscillatory activity in the human brain shows long-range temporal correlations (LRTC) that extend over time scales of seconds to minutes. Previous research has demonstrated aberrant LRTC in depressed patients; however, it is unknown whether the neuronal dynamics normalize after psychological treatment. In this study, we recorded EEG during eyes-closed rest in depressed patients (N = 71) and healthy controls (N = 25), and investigated the temporal dynamics in depressed patients at baseline, and after attending either a brief mindfulness training or a stress reduction training. Compared to the healthy controls, depressed patients showed stronger LRTC in theta oscillations (4–7 Hz) at baseline. Following the psychological interventions both groups of patients demonstrated reduced LRTC in the theta band. The reduction of theta LRTC differed marginally between the groups, and explorative analyses of separate groups revealed noteworthy topographic differences. A positive relationship between the changes in LRTC, and changes in depressive symptoms was observed in the mindfulness group. In summary, our data show that aberrant temporal dynamics of ongoing oscillations in depressive patients are attenuated after treatment, and thus may help uncover the mechanisms with which psychotherapeutic interventions affect the brain.
The error-related negativity (ERN), an evoked-potential that arises in response to the commission of errors, is an important early indicator of self-regulatory capacities. In this study we investigated whether brief mindfulness training can reverse ERN deficits in chronically depressed patients. The ERN was assessed in a sustained attention task. Chronically depressed patients (n = 59) showed significantly blunted expression of the ERN in frontocentral and frontal regions, relative to healthy controls (n = 18). Following two weeks of training, the patients (n = 24) in the mindfulness condition showed a significantly increased ERN magnitude in the frontal region, but there were no significant changes in patients who had received a resting control (n = 22). The findings suggest that brief training in mindfulness may help normalize aberrations in the ERN in chronically depressed patients, providing preliminary evidence for the responsiveness of this parameter to mental training.