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Previous research indicates that long-term meditation practice is associated with altered resting electroencephalogram patterns, suggestive of long lasting changes in brain activity. We hypothesized that meditation practice might also be associated with changes in the brain’s physical structure. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to assess cortical thickness in 20 participants with extensive Insight meditation experience, which involves focused attention to internal experiences. Brain regions associated with attention, interoception and sensory processing were thicker in meditation participants than matched controls, including the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula. Between-group differences in prefrontal cortical thickness were most pronounced in older participants, suggesting that meditation might offset age-related cortical thinning. Finally, the thickness of two regions correlated with meditation experience. These data provide the first structural evidence for experience-dependent cortical plasticity associated with meditation practice.

Bipolar disorder is associated with impairments in cognition, including difficulties in executive functioning, even when patients are euthymic (neither depressed nor manic). The purpose of this study was to assess changes in self-reported cognitive functioning in patients with bipolar disorder who participated in an open pilot trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Following MBCT, patients reported significant improvements in executive functioning, memory, and ability to initiate and complete tasks, as measured by the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) and the Frontal Systems Behavior Scale (FrSBe). Changes in cognitive functioning were correlated with increases in mindful, nonjudgmental observance and awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and were not associated with decreases indepression. Improvements tended to diminish after termination of treatment, but some improvements, particularly those in executive functioning, persisted after 3 months. These results provide preliminary evidence that MBCT may be a treatment option that can be used as an adjunct to medication to improve cognitive functioning in bipolar disorder.

Introduction: Bipolar disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of depression and/or mania along with interepisodic mood symptoms that interfere with psychosocial functioning. Despite periods of symptomatic recovery, many individuals with bipolar disorder continue to experience substantial residual mood symptoms that often lead to the recurrence of mood episodes.Aims: This study explored whether a new mindfulness‐based cognitive therapy (MBCT) for bipolar disorder would increase mindfulness, reduce residual mood symptoms, and increase emotion‐regulation abilities, psychological well‐being, positive affect, and psychosocial functioning. Following a baseline clinical assessment, 12 individuals with DSM‐IV bipolar disorder were treated with 12 group sessions of MBCT. Results: At the end of treatment, as well as at the 3 months follow‐up, participants showed increased mindfulness, lower residual depressive mood symptoms, less attentional difficulties, and increased emotion‐regulation abilities, psychological well‐being, positive affect, and psychosocial functioning. Conclusions: These findings suggest that treating residual mood symptoms with MBCT may be another avenue to improving mood, emotion regulation, well‐being, and functioning in individuals with bipolar disorder.