Member Login »

About David Black

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far David Black has created 170 entries.

Mindfulness app associated with brain function and less smoking

Posted 06.26.2019 | by AMRA

Although most cigarette smokers want to quit, only 5% succeed in doing so each year. One reason for this low success rate is that smoking-related cues stimulate strong urges to smoke. Cues include observing someone else smoking, or engaging in activities previously associated with smoking (e.g., work breaks, meals, a cup of coffee, sex). Finding ways to reduce cue-induced urges may help more people quit.

Research shows that a brain area called the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) becomes activated whenever cigarette smokers are exposed to smoking-related cues. Research also indicates that mindfulness meditation as an intervention reduces PCC activity. Janes et al. [Neuropsychopharmacology] tested whether a smartphone mindfulness app reduced smokers’ PCC reactivity to smoking-related cues and their smoking behavior.

The researchers recruited 83 adult smokers who were interested in quitting, 67 of whom completed the study and were included in the final data analysis (average age = 44; 67% female; 91% Caucasian). PCC-reactivity to smoking cues was assessed by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and participants were then randomly assigned to either mindfulness training or a control condition. Both conditions used smartphone apps for 4 weeks to help quit smoking. Participants’ PCC reactivity to smoking-related cues was re-assessed via fMRI after the intervention.

The mindfulness app consisted of 22 modules that offered daily training videos and on-demand exercises to teach the core elements of mindfulness. The app also helped participants identity triggers, monitor smoking habits, increase awareness of urges, and use mindfulness as a coping mechanism.

The control group used the National Cancer Institute’s QuitGuide App to help monitor motivation and triggers, as well as offer inspirational messages and tips for dealing with cravings and […]

June 26th, 2019|News|

Less cellular aging with loving-kindness meditation

Posted 06.19.2019 | by AMRA

Telomeres are repetitive nucleotide sequences at the end of chromosomes that protect coding regions of DNA from deteriorating during cell division. Telomeres shorten not only as we age, but also when we are under stress. Shorter telomeres are linked to an increased incidence of age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, and to an increased risk of death. The enzyme telomerase lengthens telomeres through the addition of nucleotide repeats.

Preliminary studies show that meditation can have a protective effect on telomeres, most likely by increasing telomerase activity. Specific types of meditation may be more effective than others in maintaining telomere length. Nuygen et al. [Psychoneuroimmunology] tested whether specific types of meditation practice have a protective effect on telomere length.

The researchers randomly assigned recruits to mindfulness meditation (MM), loving-kindness meditation (LKM), or a wait-list control. Their final sample (excluding dropouts and participants with inadequate DNA samples) consisted of 142 meditation-naive recruits (average age = 49; 70% female; 81% Caucasian). MM and LKM participants attended six, hour-long, group meditation training workshops held once per week. They also received 20-minute audio-recorded guided meditations to assist in daily home practice.

MM training focused on developing open, non-judgmental attention towards breath, bodily sensations, thoughts, and feelings, as well as choiceless awareness. LKM training focused on cultivating warm feelings towards oneself, a loved one, an acquaintance, a difficult person, and all beings.

Two weeks prior to the workshops (and three weeks after) participants donated a blood sample that was used to assess white blood cell (monocyte and lymphocyte) telomere length. Participant moods and extent of meditation practice were assessed by daily diary.

All groups showed a decrease in telomere length over the course […]

June 19th, 2019|News|

MBSR supports immune health among breast cancer survivors

Posted 05.28.2019 | by AMRA

Newly diagnosed breast cancer patients often experience significant psychological distress including symptoms of depression, sleep disturbance, and fatigue. They can also exhibit stress-induced immune system compromises that have the potential to accelerate tumor growth and metastasis. Interventions that restore psycho-immunological balance may also help improve cancer treatment outcomes.

Witek-Janusek et al. [Brain, Behavior, and Immunity] tested the effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on psychological and immunological functioning in newly diagnosed breast cancer patients in an experimental trial.

The researchers randomly assigned 164 women (average age = 55 years; 77% Caucasian) recently diagnosed with early stage breast cancer who had undergone surgery to either a standard MBSR or an active control condition. The active control consisted of eight 2.5 hour group sessions providing information on breast cancer, cancer treatment, communication with health providers, and other health-related topics. Attendance in both programs was fairly good, with 68% of MBSR and 78% of control participants attending at least 7 of the group sessions.

Each participant’s psychological status was assessed pre-intervention, mid-intervention, post-intervention, and at 1- and 6-month follow-ups for perceived stress, depression, sleep quality, fatigue, and mindfulness (Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire).

The researchers also measured natural killer cell anti-tumor activity (NKCA), monocyte production of Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and Interferon-gamma (INF-ɣ), and the amount of IL-6 and Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-α) present in blood plasma. NKCA prevents tumor growth and metastasis, and is thus associated with longer cancer-free periods. NK cells produce INF-ɣ, an anti-tumor cytokine which is a key immune system activator. IL-6 and TNF-α are pro-inflammatory cytokines that promote tumor progression and aggressiveness.

The results showed that the MBSR group had significantly greater increases in two protective immunological factors […]

May 28th, 2019|News|

Psilocybin increases self-transcendence among meditators

Posted 05.15.2019 | by AMRA

There are certain similarities between the increased awareness associated with the practice of mindfulness and the expanded consciousness associated with the use of psychedelic substances. Both are capable of promoting states of self-transcendence in which the boundary between one’s self and the world is erased, leading to a boundless sense of connection with the universe.

Smigielski et al. [Neuroimage] experimentally tested the effects of psilocybin, a psychedelic mushroom plant derivative, on self-reported, neurological, and behavioral outcomes among experienced meditators attending a meditation retreat.

The researchers randomly assigned 38 experienced meditators (average meditation experience = 5,000 hours; 61% male; average age = 52 years) on a five-day Zen meditation retreat to a psilocybin or placebo control condition. On the morning of the fourth retreat day, participants were administered either psilocybin (315 μgs/kg) or a placebo (lactose), and continued on with the regular retreat schedule. The research participants and assessors were blinded to the study group assignment.

Six hours after psilocybin or placebo administration, participants completed a questionnaire measuring psychological factors such as “oceanic self-boundlessness,” “dread of ego dissolution,” visual and auditory hallucinations, synesthesia, and “vigilance reduction.”

On the day before and after the retreat, participants underwent brain imaging (fMRI) to measure functional connectivity in the Default Mode Network (DMN) while resting, while engaging in focused attention meditation, and while engaging in open awareness meditation. The DMN is a network of brain regions that operates collectively when a person is simply resting and “doing nothing.”

DMN activity has been implicated in self-referential thinking, maintaining a unitary sense of identity, and maintaining the self-other boundary. Functional connectivity is a measure of the degree to which different brain regions are operationally […]

May 14th, 2019|News|

Experienced MBSR teachers show higher cortisol, unrelated to stress

Posted 04.23.2019 | by AMRA

Little is known about the impact of many years of mindfulness practice on the body’s response to stress. Robb et al. [Complementary Medicine Research] conducted a pilot study that measured salivary cortisol levels in a group of long-term mindfulness practitioners. Salivary cortisol is a biological measure that is highly reactive to stress. The researchers predicted that morning cortisol levels would be lowest for meditators with the most meditative experience.

Salivary cortisol levels typically peak during the first hour after waking up, and then decline throughout the rest of the day. Morning cortisol levels tend to be higher when under acute stress, and tend to be lower in states of exhaustion and burnout following long-term stress.

The authors recruited 83 certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teachers (73% female; 96% Caucasian; average age = 58; 92% with graduate degrees) to participate in the study. The participants completed an online questionnaire assessing a variety of health and lifestyle variables, perceived stress, and the extent of their meditation practice. They were then asked to produce a saliva sample upon first waking up, followed by 3 additional samples collected at 15-minute intervals. The total amount of cortisol produced during the first 45 minutes after awakening was then estimated using area under the curve (AUC) calculations.

The results showed that participants in the upper quartile of meditative experience (>26 years) had significantly higher (48%) total estimated morning cortisol amounts than those in the lowest (<10 years) quartile. The relationship between years of meditative experience and total morning cortisol remained significant when meditation experience was treated as a continuous variable.

In a closer examination of the data, this difference between participants in the […]

April 23rd, 2019|News|

Insurance reimbursement for a primary care mindfulness program

Posted 04.15.2019 | by AMRA

Most patients with mild-to-moderate psychological problems are diagnosed and treated in primary care rather than mental health settings. Many of these patients also suffer from physical disorders, or from physical symptoms caused or made worse by psychological factors. Mindfulness-based programs that reduce anxiety and depression and promote self-care are useful supplements to primary care treatments; however, existing barriers hinder their successful implementation. These barriers include limitations on staff time and training, staff unfamiliarity with mindfulness, and problems with insurance reimbursement.

Gawande et al [Mindfulness] studied the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of a mindfulness-based primary care program in reducing symptoms and improving self-care for patients with mild-to-moderate psychological problems.

The researchers randomly assigned 81 primary care patients (69% female; average age = 44; 78% Caucasian; 44% meditation naive) with anxiety, depressive, stress- or trauma-related disorders to either a Mindfulness Training for Primary Care (MTPC) program or a low-dose comparison group. If participants were already receiving psychological help in the primary care setting, they continued to receive it as usual.

MTPC is an 8-week group program based on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy that incorporates elements of self-compassion training, values clarification, and relapse prevention. MTPC and low dose comparison group participants were asked to develop a self-care plan together with their primary care providers during the sixth week of the program. MTPC group leaders were either appropriately trained mental health clinicians or primary care physicians, with the groups being tailored to meet the insurance requirements of each discipline.

The low dose comparison control consisted of a one-hour didactic/experiential introduction to mindfulness with information on how to access community and digital mindfulness resources. Low dose comparison participants were also placed on […]

April 15th, 2019|News|

Firefighter resilience increases after iPad mindfulness program

Posted 04.01.2019 | by AMRA

First responders such as firefighters, police, and EMTs are regularly exposed to stressful and traumatic experiences. These experiences put them at increased risk for depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, and alcoholism. There is a considerable interest in developing workplace programs that can increase first responders’ resilience to and recovery from stressful experiences.

Joyce et al. [Journal of Medical internet Research] tested the efficacy of an online Resilience-at-Work (RAW) Mindfulness Program on firefighter resilience and wellbeing.

The researchers randomly selected 12 Australian fire stations as workplaces where firefighters could receive RAW training and 12 additional stations as attention-matched controls. A total of 143 firefighters (96% male, average age = 42) volunteered to participate, 79 of whom were available for post-treatment assessment, and 69 for a 6-month follow-up. Controls had a higher 6-week drop-out rate (54%) than RAW participants (32%).

RAW training consisted of six self-paced 20-25 minute iPad lessons that were to be completed over a period of up to 6 weeks. The lessons included aspects of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy with additional training in self-compassion. The control condition completed six 20-minute Healthy Living lessons covering a range of topics such as skin health, maintaining a healthy home, and using cell phones wisely.

Self-reports were completed at baseline, post-intervention, and 6-month follow-up on measures of resilience (adaptation to stressful life events), bounce-back resilience, and other psychological measures.

RAW participants completed an average of 3.5 of the six trainings with only 37% completing the entire program. RAW participants increased their resilience scores more than controls. This difference approached significance at immediate post-testing and reached significance by the 6-month follow-up (a moderate-to-large effect). There were no group […]

April 1st, 2019|News|

Mindfulness plus acceptance training supports social connection

Posted 03.19.2019 | by AMRA

Loneliness and social isolation are major risk factors for poor health and increased mortality. Additionally, U.S. loneliness ratings have steadily risen in recent decades. Mindfulness could potentially mitigate this problem by enhancing emotional regulation, thereby improving social relationships.

Lindsay et al. [Proceedings of the National Academy of Science] conducted a randomized controlled study to see if training in mindful attention to sensory and mental experience, both with and without instructions to adopt an accepting attitude towards experience, helps to reduce feelings of loneliness and increase the frequency of social interactions.

The researchers randomly assigned 153 adults reporting higher than average stress levels (67% female; 52% Caucasian; average age = 32) to one of three groups. Participants in each group agreed to watch and listen to fourteen 20-minute lessons delivered via smartphone over the course of two weeks. The lessons all contained a combination of didactic instruction and guided exercises.

Participants in the Monitoring + Acceptance (M+A) group received training in present moment awareness plus training in accepting experience with openness, receptivity, and equanimity. Participants in the Monitoring Only (MO) group received training in present moment awareness without training in acceptance. Those in a third Coping control group received instruction on how to reflect on, analyze, and solve problems.

Participants rated how lonely they felt and recorded their daily social contacts and how many different people they interacted with in diaries completed three days before and three days after the intervention. Participants also reported their immediate feelings of loneliness and real-time social interactions multiple times a day via cellphone (a procedure called “ecological momentary assessment”). Finally, participants completed standardized retrospective self-report measures of loneliness, social isolation, and […]

March 19th, 2019|News|

Journal articles on mindfulness continue to grow in 2018

Posted 03.13.2019 | by AMRA

A new search of the term “mindfulness” shows that the concept continues to gain popularity. The number of academic journal articles published with the term “mindfulness” in the title reached 842 in 2018. This is up from under 800 articles published in 2017. A full-size image is free for reuse and reprint for research and teaching purposes here. Data obtained from an ISI Web of Science search of the term “mindfulness” in academic journal article titles including reviews, editorial letters, and proceedings papers.

March 13th, 2019|News|

MBCT associated with less grief after death of loved one

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 […]

February 27th, 2019|News|