An impaired ability to suppress currently irrelevant mental-sets is a key cognitive deficit in depression. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) was specifically designed to help depressed individuals avoid getting caught in such irrelevant mental-sets. In the current study, a group assigned to MBCT plus treatment-as-usual (n = 22) exhibited significantly lower depression scores and greater improvements in irrelevant mental-set suppression compared to a wait-list plus treatment-as-usual (n = 18) group. Improvements in mental-set-suppression were associated with improvements in depression scores. Results provide the first evidence that MBCT can improve suppression of irrelevant mental-sets and that such improvements are associated with depressive alleviation.
Body awareness has been proposed as one of the major mechanisms of mindfulness interventions, and it has been shown that chronic pain and depression are associated with decreased levels of body awareness. We investigated the effect of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) on body awareness in patients with chronic pain and comorbid active depression compared to treatment as usual (TAU; N=31). Body awareness was measured by a subset of the Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness (MAIA) scales deemed most relevant for the population. These included: Noticing, Not-Distracting, Attention Regulation, Emotional Awareness, and Self-Regulation. In addition, pain catastrophizing was measured by the Pain Catastrophizing Scale (PCS). These scales had adequate to high internal consistency in the current sample. Depression severity was measured by the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology – Clinician rated (QIDS-C16). Increases in the MBCT group were significantly greater than in the TAU group on the ‘Self-Regulation’ and ‘Not Distracting’ scales. Furthermore, the positive effect of MBCT on depression severity was mediated by ‘Not Distracting’. These findings provide preliminary evidence that a mindfulness-based intervention may increase facets of body awareness as assessed with the MAIA in a population of pain patients with depression. Furthermore, they are consistent with a long hypothesized mechanism for mindfulness and emphasize the clinical relevance of body awareness.
Mindfulness has been suggested to impact emotional learning, but research on these processes is scarce. The classical fear conditioning/extinction/extinction retention paradigm is a well-known method for assessing emotional learning. The present study tested the impact of mindfulness training on fear conditioning and extinction memory and further investigated whether changes in white matter fiber tracts might support such changes. The uncinate fasciculus (UNC) was of particular interest in the context of emotional learning. In this pilot study, 46 healthy participants were quasi-randomized to a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR, N = 23) or waitlist control (N = 23) group and underwent a two-day fear conditioning, extinction learning, and extinction memory protocol before and after the course or control period. Skin conductance response (SCR) data served to measure the physiological response during conditioning and extinction memory phases. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data were analyzed with probabilistic tractography and analyzed for changes of fractional anisotropy in the UNC. During conditioning, participants were able to maintain a differential response to conditioned vs. not conditioned stimuli following the MBSR course (i.e., higher sensitivity to the conditioned stimuli), while controls dropped the response. Extinction memory results were not interpretable due to baseline differences. MBSR participants showed a significant increase in fractional anisotropy in the UNC, while controls did not (group by time interaction missed significance). Pre-post changes in UNC were correlated with changes in the response to the conditioned stimuli. The findings suggest effects of mindfulness practice on the maintenance of sensitivity of emotional responses and suggest underlying neural plasticity. (ClinicalTrials.gov, Identifier NCT01320969, https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01320969).
Mindfulness research activity is surging within organizational science. Emerging evidence across multiple fields suggests that mindfulness is fundamentally connected to many aspects of workplace functioning, but this knowledge base has not been systematically integrated to date. This review coalesces the burgeoning body of mindfulness scholarship into a framework to guide mainstream management research investigating a broad range of constructs. The frame- work identifies how mindfulness influences attention, with downstream effects on functional domains of cognition, emotion, behavior, and physiology. Ultimately, these domains impact key workplace outcomes, including performance, relationships, and well-being. Consideration of the evidence on mindfulness at work stimulates important questions and challenges key assump- tions within management science, generating an agenda for future research.
There has been a growing interest in understanding how contemplative practices affect brain functional organization. However, most studies have restricted their exploration to predefined networks. Furthermore, scientific comparisons of different contemplative traditions are largely lacking. Here we explored differences in whole brain resting state functional connectivity between experienced yoga practitioners, experienced meditators, and matched controls. Analyses were repeated in an independent sample of experienced meditators and matched controls. Analyses utilizing Network-Based Statistics (Zalesky et al., 2010) revealed difference components for yoga practitioners > controls and meditators > controls in which the right caudate was a central node. Follow up analyses revealed that yoga practitioners and meditators had significantly greater degree centrality in the caudate than controls. This greater degree centrality was not driven by single connections but by greater connectivity between the caudate and numerous brain regions. Findings of greater caudate connectivity in meditators than in controls was replicated in an independent dataset. These findings suggest that yoga and meditation practitioners have stronger functional connectivity within basal ganglia cortico-thalamic feedback loops than non-practitioners. Although we could not provide evidence for its mechanistic role, this greater connectivity might be related to the often reported effects of meditation and yoga on behavioral flexibility, mental health, and well-being.
In light of a growing interest in contemplative practices such as meditation, the emerging field of contemplative science has been challenged to describe and objectively measure how these practices affect health and well-being. While “mindfulness” itself has been proposed as a measurable outcome of contemplative practices, this concept encompasses multiple components, some of which, as we review here, may be better characterized as equanimity. Equanimity can be defined as an even-minded mental state or dispositional tendency toward all experiences or objects, regardless of their origin or their affective valence (pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral). In this article, we propose that equanimity be used as an outcome measure in contemplative research. We first define and discuss the inter-relationship between mindfulness and equanimity from the perspectives of both classical Buddhism and modern psychology and present existing meditation techniques for cultivating equanimity. We then review psychological, physiological, and neuroimaging methods that have been used to assess equanimity either directly or indirectly. In conclusion, we propose that equanimity captures potentially the most important psychological element in the improvement of well-being, and therefore should be a focus in future research studies.
Numerous studies have documented the normal age-related decline of neural structure, function, and cognitive performance. Preliminary evidence suggests that meditation may reduce decline in specific cognitive domains and in brain structure. Here we extended this research by investigating the relation between age and fluid intelligence and resting state brain functional network architecture using graph theory, in middle-aged yoga and meditation practitioners, and matched controls. Fluid intelligence declined slower in yoga practitioners and meditators combined than in controls. Resting state functional networks of yoga practitioners and meditators combined were more integrated and more resilient to damage than those of controls. Furthermore, mindfulness was positively correlated with fluid intelligence, resilience, and global network efficiency. These findings reveal the possibility to increase resilience and to slow the decline of fluid intelligence and brain functional architecture and suggest that mindfulness plays a mechanistic role in this preservation.
With a rapidly aging society it becomes increasingly important to counter normal age-related decline in cognitive functioning. Growing evidence suggests that cognitive training programs may have the potential to counteract this decline. On the basis of a growing body of research that shows that meditation has positive effects on cognition in younger and middle-aged adults, meditation may be able to offset normal age-related cognitive decline or even enhance cognitive function in older adults. In this paper, we review studies investigating the effects of meditation on age-related cognitive decline. We searched the Web of Science (1900 to present), PsycINFO (1597 to present), MEDLINE (1950 to present), and CABI (1910 to present) to identify original studies investigating the effects of meditation on cognition and cognitive decline in the context of aging. Twelve studies were included in the review, six of which were randomized controlled trials. Studies involved a wide variety of meditation techniques and reported preliminary positive effects on attention, memory, executive function, processing speed, and general cognition. However, most studies had a high risk of bias and small sample sizes. Reported dropout rates were low and compliance rates high. We conclude that meditation interventions for older adults are feasible, and preliminary evidence suggests that meditation can offset age-related cognitive decline.