Posted 02.27.2019 | by AMRA
The death of a loved one is a powerful stressor. Bereavement is not only painful and distressing, but can also trigger the onset of a variety of mental and medical disorders. Bereaved individuals may experience difficulty regulating their emotions and intrusive unpleasant thoughts and feelings that can disrupt cognitive functioning.
Huang et al. [Frontiers in Human Neuroscience] tested whether Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) can improve emotional regulation and executive cognitive functioning in bereaved individuals.
The researchers recruited 23 participants reporting unresolved grief (91% female; average age = 48) who had lost at least one significant relative in the previous four years. All the participants attended an 8-week MBCT program. Self-report measures of grief, anxiety, depression, emotional regulation difficulty, and mindfulness (using the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire) were obtained pre- and post-intervention.
Neurocognitive functioning was assessed before and after the intervention by having participants perform a Stroop task while monitoring their brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging. The Stroop task required participants to judge which of two visually presented digits was numerically larger. In each presentation, the relative physical sizes of the digits were either congruent or incongruent with their relative numerical size.
People usually take longer to correctly respond on incongruous Stroop trials. Their reaction time on those trials was used as a measure of executive cognitive function—the ability to make judgments in the presence of conflicting information.
After MBCT, participants reported significantly reduced grief (Cohen’s d = -0.89), anxiety (d = -0.65), depression (d = -1.17), and emotional regulation difficulty (d = -0.76), as well as increased mindfulness (d = 0.80). Post-MBCT mindfulness scores were significantly associated with lower post-MBCT grief (r = -.52), anxiety […]