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High schoolers practicing mindfulness have less emotional habituation, brain study shows

Posted 02.23.2018 | by AMRA

Event-related potentials (ERPs) are segments of brain waves occurring in response to stimuli. For example, when people with depression are shown happy faces, the amplitude of their ERPs 300 milliseconds later (the so-called “P3b” ERP) is smaller than in non-depressed people. Since mindfulness encourages openness to emotions, mindfulness may enhance P3b responding to emotional stimuli and perhaps play a role in reducing or preventing depressive symptoms.

In a pioneering study of adolescent brain function and school mindfulness programs, Sanger el al. [Developmental Science] tested whether a high school mindfulness-training program could affect the size of healthy students’ P3b responses to happy and sad faces, and whether it improved their wellbeing relative to a control group.

The researchers assigned 40 students (16-18 years old) to mindfulness training or a waitlist control. Assignment was not random. Volunteers from two secondary schools were assigned to mindfulness training, and volunteers from two other secondary schools were assigned to the waitlist control. Control volunteers were slightly older and more likely to be male.

Participants completed the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) along with measures of stress, wellbeing, and empathy, both before and after training. Schoolteachers taught the mindfulness practices in eight 50-minute classes. Curriculum topics included “Taming the Animal Mind, “Being Here and Now,” “Moving Mindfully,” and “Befriending the Difficult.”

Before and after training, students were shown pictures of faces with varying expressions while an EEG measured their P3bs. Most of the faces shown were neutral, but 20% were happy or sad. Participants were instructed to press a space bar whenever they saw a happy or sad face.

Mindfulness levels did not increase over time, nor did they differ between the mindfulness […]

February 23rd, 2018|News|

Youth with HIV show reduced viral load after MBSR

Posted 11.16.2017 | by AMRA

Youth living with HIV have to cope not only with the psychological stress of having a chronic disease, but also with the challenges of taking medications regularly and following through with scheduled medical appointments. Successful coping may be particularly difficult for HIV-infected adolescents and young adults who are still developing their self-regulation skills and working through developmental issues regarding identity formation.

Webb et al. [AIDS Care] conducted a randomized, controlled study of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to see if it could enhance psychological wellbeing, self-regulation, and disease management in youth with HIV.

The researchers randomly assigned 72 youth with HIV (age range = 14-22 years; 53% male) to either MBSR or a health education course. The MBSR intervention adapted its vocabulary (but not its content or structure) to better suit the needs of urban youth. The health education course was structured to match MBSR in terms of the number and length of its sessions, as well as its group structure and size. The course was designed to cover topics such as nutrition, exercise and puberty.

Participants completed self-report measures of mindfulness (the Mindful Attention and Awareness Scale), perceived stress, coping styles, aggression, quality of life, and medication adherence at baseline, post-intervention, and 3-month follow-up. They also completed Stroop-like tasks to assess their ability to regulate attention in the presence of interfering emotionally positive, negative, or neutral stimuli

HIV viral loads (measures of the severity of HIV infection) and CD4 counts (measures of immune system functioning) were obtained from participants’ medical records. Participants were categorized as having either low viral loads (under 100 viral copies per mL) or higher viral loads (over 100 viral copies per mL).

Low […]

November 16th, 2017|News|

Teens in mindfulness program improve cognitive ability

Posted 12.26.2015 | by AMRA


Working memory capacity is a measure of one’s ability to temporarily hold information in mind while completing a cognitive task. There seems to be some conceptual overlap between the focused attention required for working memory and the moment-to-moment attention that is an integral part of mindfulness. Working memory plays crucial roles in learning, cognitive development, reasoning, comprehension, and academic performance, and any intervention that can improve working memory is of great interest to specialists in child development. In a randomized, controlled study, Quach, et al. [Journal of Adolescent Health] investigated whether an MBI can improve working memory in adolescents.

The 186 participants, primarily Hispanic and Asian junior high students (62% female; average age = 13) from predominantly low-income households, were randomly assigned to either mindfulness meditation, hatha yoga, or a wait-list control. The active intervention participants learned and practiced either mindfulness meditation or hatha yoga during eight 45-minute twice-a-week training sessions, while control participants attended their regular physical education classes.

Mindfulness meditation training was based on a truncated, modified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) curriculum that excluded hatha yoga. Hatha yoga training included an emphasis on non-judgmental attention to body posture and movement. Both interventions encouraged 15-30 minutes of daily home practice.

Before and after the inventions, participants completed a computerized test of working memory requiring them to memorize series of visually presented letters while simultaneously solving arithmetic equations. Working memory capacity was measured by the total number of letters participants recalled in their correct order within each presentational set, yielding a working memory score that could range from 0 to 75.

Participants also completed self-report measures of perceived stress and anxiety along with the Child […]

December 26th, 2015|News|

Brain imaging study of adolescents links cortical changes and mindfulness

Posted 08.25.2015 | by AMRA


Adolescence is a time of rapid growth in young people’s capacity to self-regulate their emotions and maintain focus on goals, as well as a time of rapid brain development. In a longitudinal study, Friedel et al. [Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience] explored the relationship between changes in brain areas previously linked to mindfulness and the development of a tendency to be mindful of experience (dispositional mindfulness) in adolescents.

The brain regions of interest included the prefrontal cortex (an area involved in goal directed behavior and emotional regulation) and the insula (an area involved in the awareness of internal bodily states). As adolescents mature, the gray matter in their cerebral cortexes tends to thin out as neurons are selectively pruned and circuits become more efficient. The researchers predicted that a higher degree of cortical thinning would correlate with higher levels of dispositional mindfulness.

The researchers analyzed the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of 82 male and female adolescents who, as part of a larger study, underwent repeated scans at ages 16 and 19, and completed the Mindfulness Attention and Awareness Scale (MAAS) at age 19. The participants were also assessed on measures of temperament, emotional regulation, and intelligence.

Dispositional mindfulness was positively correlated with self-report measures of cognitive reappraisal, attention, and inhibitory control, and negatively correlated with measures of frustration, aggression, and depressed mood. The researchers analyzed possible relationships between cortical thinning and dispositional mindfulness in twenty different regions of the prefrontal and insular cortex. Contrary to expectation, prefrontal cortical thinning was unrelated to dispositional mindfulness — although prefrontal thinning was related to IQ.

There was, however, a significant correlation between a lesser degree of left anterior insular […]

August 25th, 2015|News|

Adolescents Gain Stability and Relaxation Through Mindfulness Practice

Posted from archive: 01.05.2013 | by AMRA


Monshat et al. [Journal of Adolescent Health] qualitatively analyzed focus group responses and individual interviews from 8 young people (aged 16- 24) who completed a 6-week mindfulness training. Three of the participants had past diagnoses of depression, but none were currently depressed. Group and individual transcripts were coded and analyzed using grounded theory – a method in which theory emerges from the data rather than preceding it.

Over the course of the training, participants went from an initial phase of distress and reactivity to a phase of stability marked by relaxation and increased conscious control. The youth finally progressed to a third “insight” phase characterized by clarity of mind, competence, and confidence in which mindfulness became a “mindset” rather than merely a “technique.”


Monshat, K., Khong, B., Hassed, C., Vella-Brodrick, D., Norrish, J., Burns, J., & Herrman, H. (2012). A conscious control over life and my emotions:” Mindfulness practice and healthy young people. A qualitative study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 52(5):572-7. [PMID: 23298987]

[Link to abstract]

December 23rd, 2013|News|