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So far David Black has created 182 entries.

MBSR boosts therapy for parents of children with autism

Posted 05.26.2020 | by AMRA

About 2% of American children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Parents of children with autism must navigate their child’s impairments in social relatedness, communication, and cognition, as well as their behavioral difficulties. Therapists often train parents to engage in play and joint activities with their children to help foster language, social, and cognitive skills. Parents, however, are often distressed by their child’s condition, limiting their effectiveness in optimally fostering their child’s development.

Weitlauf et al. [Pediatrics] tested whether Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), when combined with a program that coaches parents on how to help their child with autism, could effectively reduce parental distress.

The researchers randomly assigned 61 parents (average age = 33 years; 89% female; 90% Caucasian) of preschool children diagnosed with autism to a 12-week training in a Parent-delivered Early Start Denver Model (PESDM) intervention or PEDSM plus MBSR. PESDM consisted of 12 hour-long weekly clinic-based sessions facilitated by therapists. Parents were coached on how to interact with their children to foster skill development.

Parents in the PESDM+MBSR group met with a mindfulness trainer for six additional hour-long individual MBSR sessions. Mindfulness training sessions focused on cultivating present-moment awareness, gratitude, and stress management skills.

Parents were assessed at baseline, mid-intervention, intervention end, and at 1, 3, and 6 months follow-up on measures of parental stress, depression, anxiety, life satisfaction, and mindfulness (using the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire). Children were assessed on a number of dimensions including parental ratings of the severity of their behavioral problems.

The results showed that parents in both study groups reported significantly decreased parental stress, depression, and anxiety during the study intervention period. During the 6-month follow-up period, improvements […]

May 26th, 2020|News|

More charitable giving after brief mindfulness meditation

Posted 05.21.2020 | by AMRA

Human altruism is affected by various contextual and social cues as well as biological factors. Levels of altruism are associated with activity in brain regions that play a role in empathy and emotional regulation, for example, the insula, amygdala, and anterior cingulate cortex. Interestingly, these are also brain regions whose functions and structures are affected by mindfulness meditation.

Iwamoto et al. [Scientific Reports] tested whether a very brief, video-guided, mindfulness meditation increases altruism as assessed by charitable giving behavior compared to an inactive control intervention.

The researchers randomly assigned 326 employees from a large company (66% male; 73% Caucasian; average age = 33 years) to either a mindfulness exposure or a control group. Participants in the mindfulness group watched a 5.5-minute guided breath meditation video produced by the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. Control participants watched a 4.5-minute video that demonstrated how to draw a cartoon character.

After watching the videos and providing basic demographic data, participants were told they would be paid for their participation. They were then given the opportunity to donate all, some, or none of their participation payment to a popular charity organization, the United Way.

The results showed that participants in the mindfulness group donated a greater average percentage of their compensation (11%) than the control group (6%), and also donated significantly more frequently (2.6 times as often) than controls.

Mindfulness meditation had a significantly larger effect on employees under 25 years of age and employees without a college education. Furthermore, younger and less educated control participants donated very little but were significantly more generous in the mindfulness meditation group.

Ethnicity and country of residence also helped determine the level of charitable giving, […]

May 21st, 2020|News|

Extended MBSR curbs headache frequency in chronic migraineurs

Posted 04.28.2020 | by AMRA

Migraines, marked by intense, throbbing headaches, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, affect 13% of the adult population and are the sixth most frequent cause of disability. Migraines are known to be accompanied by changes in brain structures involved with cognitive aspects of pain processing including the insula, cingulate, and prefrontal cortices. This is an area of interest because mindfulness training is thought to work, in part, by altering one’s thoughts and attitudes towards pain.

Seminowicz et al. [Pain] conducted a randomized controlled trial to test if mindfulness training reduces migraines and determine whether it alters brain structure and function in regions related to cognitive aspects of pain processing.

The researchers randomly assigned 98 migraineurs (average age = 36 years; 72% Caucasian; 91% female) who had experienced 4-14 days of headache in the past month to either enhanced Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or a stress management program. Both programs met in 2-hour weekly groups for the first 8 weeks, and biweekly for the following 8 weeks. MBSR differed from the conventional standard in its addition of four group sessions after the initial 8 weeks. These additional sessions emphasized developing qualities of self-compassion, gratitude, equanimity, and sympathetic joy, and applying mindfulness skills before, during, and after migraines.

The stress management control offered didactic content focused on understanding stress, triggers, pain, sleep hygiene, and medications along with group support and muscle stretching exercises. Attendance to all scheduled groups sessions and/or individual make-up sessions was high (86% in MBSR and 83% in the control group).

All participants completed headache questionnaires at baseline and at week 10, 20, and 52. In addition, they completed fMRI brain scans at baseline and […]

April 28th, 2020|News|

MBCT reduces negative attentional bias and depressive symptoms

Posted 04.15.2020 | by AMRA

People with major depressive disorder (MDD) show an attentional bias in which they over-attend to negative information while often ignoring positive information. This attentional bias feeds, reinforces, and prolongs depressive thought patterns, and serves as an underlying risk factor for depressive symptom onset and relapse.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is an approach to psychotherapy that combines features of mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy. The program has been shown to effectively reduce the odds of depressive relapse among people with MDD. Less is known about the efficacy of the program for alleviating current depressive symptoms.

Holas et al. [Mindfulness] conducted a randomized controlled trial to test if MBCT reduces attentional bias and depressive symptoms in patients with current MDD.

The researchers randomly assigned 53 adults with untreated current major depressive episodes (100% Polish Caucasian; 74% female; average age = 35 years) to an 8-week MBCT program or a wait-list control. Participants completed a self-report measure of depressive symptoms (CESD) and were assessed on an eye movement tracking task, measuring attentional bias immediately before and after the intervention period.

In that task, participants viewed slides with sad, angry, happy, and neutral faces in each of the four quadrants of the slide while their eye movements and fixations were recorded in milliseconds. This enabled researchers to calculate the relative amount of time participants spent gazing at each of the different faces.

The results showed that MBCT affected how long participants gazed at the various faces. Participants in the MBCT group significantly increased the amount of time they gazed at happy faces from pretest to posttest (ηp2=.23) and decreased their gaze at sad (ηp2=.09) and angry (ηp2=.14 ) faces, whereas […]

April 15th, 2020|News|

MBCT shows cost savings of $2,225 per patient with MDD

Posted 03.25.2020 | by AMRA

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a severe recurrent mood disorder that affects 4-5% of the North American population at any given point in time. The average patient with MDD suffers 5-9 episodes over the course of a lifetime, and the personal, familial, and social costs of severe depression make relapse prevention a priority. Previous research shows Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) to be roughly as effective as antidepressant medication maintenance in preventing MDD relapse.

While antidepressant medication maintenance is effective, many patients have difficulty tolerating medication side-effects including insomnia, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, nausea, loss of libido and might prefer a non-drug intervention.

Pahlevan et al. [Canadian Journal of Psychology] used already extant data sets to calculate the efficacy, utility, and cost effectiveness of MBCT vs. antidepressant medication maintenance for preventing relapse over 24-months in patients with recurrent MDD treated within the Canadian healthcare system.

The data were drawn from previously published studies comparing the efficacy of MBCT and antidepressant medication. MBCT is an 8-week group-based intervention combining elements of MBSR and cognitive therapy to prevent MDD relapse. Antidepressant medication maintenance uses antidepressant medication to prevent relapse.

Estimated parameters for adherence, relapse, and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) were drawn from 11 Canadian randomized controlled trials. MBCT patients who attended at least 4 MBCT classes, and antidepressant medication patients who took their medication (venlafaxine, 375 mgs. daily) regularly, according to prescription refill and self-report data, were considered treatment compliant. Outcomes for treatment compliant and non-compliant patients were assessed at 12 and 24 months (only one of the 11 studies followed patients for 24 months).

Data on the estimated costs of MBCT, antidepressant medication, and relapse treatment were drawn from […]

March 25th, 2020|News|

Mindful acceptance calms negative emotion and amygdala activity

Posted 03.17.2020 | by AMRA

Mindfulness-based interventions can alleviate pain and suffering in some individuals, but there are important questions about its mechanism of action. Mindfulness might work “top down” by helping us to think differently about the significance of our unpleasant experiences. Alternatively, it might work “bottom up” by preventing us from experiencing the unpleasantness of negative stimuli in the first place. Moreover, it is unclear whether formal meditation practice is essential in order for mindfulness to reduce suffering, or whether learning to adopt a nonjudgmental attitude might, in and of itself, be sufficient.

Kober et al. [Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience] sought to clarify how an attitude of mindful acceptance affects emotional and brain responses to unpleasant and painful stimuli. Study participants acted as their own controls, at times instructed to respond to sets of negative stimuli as they naturally would, and at times instructed to respond with mindful acceptance.

The researchers recruited a sample of 17 meditation naïve adults (71% male; average age = 32). Participants were presented with a series of unpleasant and neutral images on a computer screen, and researchers also applied a series of warm or painful heat stimuli to participants’ forearms. Participants were instructed on some stimulus trials to react as they naturally would in their daily life, and instructed on other stimulus trials to adopt an attitude of “accepting experience as it is” without judgment.

Instruction in mindful acceptance was brief, and participants articulated what they were doing on practice trials to assure their understanding of the instructions provided. Participants rated their emotional negativity on an eight-point scale after each stimulus presentation.

Brain activity was recorded by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) throughout […]

March 17th, 2020|News|

Chemotherapy patients in mindful relaxation report less nausea

Posted 02.26.2020 | by AMRA

Chemotherapy treatment for cancer can cause a variety of unpleasant side effects including nausea and vomiting. As many as 30% of chemotherapy patients may develop what is diagnosed as anticipatory nausea and vomiting. That is, nausea and vomiting become conditioned responses, and the patients suffer these symptoms just anticipating a drug infusion.

Patients’ anticipatory symptoms commonly manifest by the third chemotherapy session. Once anticipatory nausea and vomiting is conditioned, it tends to persist throughout treatment and may prove unresponsive to anti-emetic medication. An ideal intervention would prevent anticipatory symptoms before they start and could be easily administered by existing nursing personnel.

Hunter et al. [Cancer Medicine] investigated the relative efficacy of a brief nurse-administered mindfulness intervention compared to relaxing music or standard care in preventing anticipatory nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients.

The researchers randomly assigned 474 chemotherapy patients (92% female; 86% Caucasian; 85% diagnosed with breast cancer) to mindful relaxation, relaxing music, and standard care conditions. For the mindful relaxation group, nurses individually taught patients a 20-minute exercise involving mindfulness, imagery, and relaxation prior to their first chemotherapy treatment. Patients were also given a recording to use for daily home practice, and at the start of each chemotherapy session.

In the relaxing music group, participants listened to relaxing music (nature sounds, vocal tracks) for 20 minutes prior to the start of their first chemotherapy treatment, and were given a recording of the music to relax with at home daily, and to listen to at the beginning of each new chemotherapy session. In the standard care group, participants met with a nurse for 20 minutes before their first chemotherapy session and were given general information about […]

February 26th, 2020|News|

Mindfulness lowers inflammation in cognitively impaired older adults

Posted 02.12.2020 | by AMRA

Approximately half of older adults diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) eventually progress to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. A diagnosis of MCI may provide a window of opportunity to slow, halt, or reverse further cognitive decline, and researchers are interested in novel interventions to help maintain cognitive functioning.

Mindfulness-based interventions may offer a means to potentially preserve cognitive function by lowering stress and inflammation and promoting neuroplasticity. Inflammation is associated with cognitive impairment, the arterial changes associated with vascular dementia, and the inter-neuronal plaque formation associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Ng et al. [Translational Psychiatry] conducted a randomized controlled pilot study investigating the effects of a mindfulness-based program on biomarkers of stress, inflammation, and neuroplasticity in older adults with MCI.

The researchers randomly assigned 55 older adults (average age = 71 years; 75% Female; 98% Singaporean Chinese) with MCI to Mindful Awareness Practice (MAP) or a health education control group. For the first three months, MAP and control participants attended 12, weekly, 1-hour sessions. For the subsequent 6-months, they attended once monthly 1 hour booster sessions.

MAP was modelled after Mindfulness-Based Elder Care, an adaptation of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for older adults with impairments in attention-span and difficulty in following instructions. The mindfulness program included mindful breathing, sensory mindfulness, body scanning, and mindful movement components.

The health education control covered topics such as sleep, diet, exercise, grief, stress, social support, and the management of common chronic diseases associated with aging.

Participants provided blood and saliva sample at baseline, 3 months, and 9 months. Researchers obtained blood biomarkers of inflammation (C-reactive protein, IL-6 and IL-1β), saliva biomarkers of stress (cortisol and DHEA-S), and a blood biomarker of neuroplasticity (BDNF, a protein […]

February 12th, 2020|News|

Cognitively impaired older adults improve memory with mindfulness

Posted 01.22.2020 | by AMRA

A diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) represents a degree of cognitive decline greater than what one might expect from normal aging but not severe enough to call for a diagnosis of dementia. While older adults with MCI show mild memory and word-finding difficulties, they remain capable of independent living. Nevertheless, they are at an increased risk for developing dementia, and clinicians are interested in developing ways to delay or prevent the onset or progression of dementia. MCI symptoms are often accompanied by decreased structural and functional brain connectivity, as diverse regions of the brain show greater difficulty in cross-communicating information and coordinating activity.

Prior research suggests that mindfulness practice enhances aspects of structural and functional brain connectivity in healthy adults. Fam et al. [Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences] examined whether mindfulness practice can also improve dynamic functional connectivity (changing patterns of functional connectivity over time) in older adults with MCI.

The researchers randomly assigned 47 meditation-naïve older adults (average age = 72 years; 72% female; 97% Chinese) diagnosed with MCI to a mindfulness awareness program or an active control. Mindfulness participants attended a series 12 weekly 40-minute group mindfulness training sessions and were encouraged to engage in daily home practice.

Control group participants attended a series of 12 weekly 40-minute talks on health-related topics including diet, sleep, exercise, and personal safety. Four mindfulness participants and 7 controls failed to complete the study, leaving a final analytic sample of 36 participants.

All participants underwent resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) at baseline and three months later. Measures of the efficiency of brain information transmission were calculated. Higher efficiency is indicative of a shorter transmission time between disparate […]

January 22nd, 2020|News|

HIV+ men show lasting reduction in viral load after wellness program

Posted 01.15.2020 | by AMRA

Taken properly, anti-retroviral medications successfully reduce viral loads in people living with HIV infections, helping them to maintain health and reduce disease transmission. Persons with HIV who use methamphetamines often fail to get the full benefit of their anti-retroviral medications. Such stimulant users are more likely to skip medication doses, engage in high-risk sexual behavior, and show signs of hastened AIDS progression.

Carrico et al. [Journal of the International AIDS Society] studied whether an add-on intervention designed to boost positive affect can increase the efficacy of a contingency management program. Contingency management involved offering financial rewards for clean drug tests, and the add-on intervention included elements of mindfulness training.

The researchers randomly assigned 110 HIV+ men who engaged in anal sex with other men and tested positive for methamphetamine use (average age = 43 years; 43% Caucasian) to the add-on intervention called Affect Regulation Treatment to Enhance Methamphetamine Intervention Success (ARTEMIS), or an attention-control condition.

Both groups also participated in a 3- month contingency management program offering financial rewards for maintaining stimulant-free urine samples. The period of active contingency management coincided with participation in the 3 month-ARTEMIS or attention-control group, and financial rewards were not continued after 3 months.

The ARTEMIS intervention consisted of 5 individual 1-hour training sessions delivered over a 3-month period. The program provided training in noticing and savoring positive events, mindfulness, gratitude, altruism, self-compassion, positive reappraisal, and reaching attainable goals. The training included breath-focused and loving-kindness meditations, values clarification, and psychoeducation on stimulant withdrawal. The attention-control condition consisted of 5 individual 1-hour sessions in which participants were administered psychological tests and engaged in neutral writing exercises.

Assessments occurred at baseline, and at 3, […]

January 15th, 2020|News|