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Mothers’ mindfulness and infant brain development

Posted: 07.11.2014 | by AMRA


Previous studies have shown that expectant mothers’ anxiety and stress can adversely affect their children’s brain development. If this is so, is it possible that expectant mothers’ levels of mindfulness can have a positive, protective effect on their children’s brain development?

van den Heuvel et al. [Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience] tested this possibility by assessing mindfulness (using a short form of the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory) and anxiety (using a symptom checklist) in 78 expectant mothers during the second trimester of pregnancy. Nine months after their infants were born, the research team assessed the infants’ auditory processing by measuring their brain’s electrical responsiveness to sounds, or “auditory evoked event related potentials” (ERPs) using an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure this responsiveness.

The infants were presented with series of sounds: a frequently presented tone with a base frequency of 500 vibrations per second interspersed with less frequently presented sounds such as the sound of a door slamming or a dog barking. The researchers analyzed two waveform components of the infants’ brain responses to sounds: a “P150” component (an electrically positive component of an EEG wave occurring at approximately 150 milliseconds after the presentation of a sound) reflecting selective attention to a particular stimulus together with suppression of attention to other stimuli, and an “N250” component (an electrically negative component of an EEG wave occurring at approximately 250 milliseconds after the presentation of a sound) tied to turning one’s attention to a novel stimulus.

Mothers’ mindfulness during pregnancy was associated with significantly larger infant P150 wave amplitudes and significantly smaller infant N250 wave amplitudes. Maternal anxiety during pregnancy was associated with significantly larger infant N250 wave amplitudes. […]

July 11th, 2014|News|

More needed beyond the present moment

Posted: 05.29.2014 | by AMRA


Present-moment awareness is usually considered a desirable mental state, but prior research using the Five Factor Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) has shown that the factor of observing present-moment experience is counterintuitively correlated with increased anxiety and inconsistently correlated with depression. Under what circumstances does the observation of present-moment experience improve well-being and under what circumstances does it exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety?

Desrosiers et al. [Journal of Affective Disorders] hypothesized that present-moment observation must be coupled with the factor of non-reactivity in order to optimize its benefits. Observation alone can trigger rumination and worry, resulting in elevated distress, but when coupled with non-reactivity, it provides a space that allows for subsequent higher-level cognitive reappraisal.

The authors tested whether non-reactivity moderates the after-effects of observing depressive and anxiety symptoms, i.e, whether it decreases subsequent rumination and worry and facilitates cognitive reappraisal. They administered the FFMQ along with self-report measures of mood, worry, rumination, and cognitive reappraisal to 189 adults with depressive and anxiety disorders, and conducted an analysis of the intercorrelations between those measures. Findings were largely supportive of a crucial role for non-reactivity.

Observing present-moment experience significantly increased depressive symptoms in those participants who had the lowest levels of non-reactivity, while higher levels of non-reactivity were correlated with significantly decreased observation-induced rumination and worry, and increased observation-related cognitive reappraisal. For participants with low levels of non-reactivity, high levels of observation led to increased worry and rumination, whereas greater observation was related to less rumination among participants with high levels of non-reactivity. Similarly, the greater their non-reactivity, the greater the odds that participants would make use of cognitive reappraisal.

Observing was positively correlated with worry for […]

May 29th, 2014|News|

CALM Pregnancy Program Targets Perinatal Anxiety

Posted: 02.07.2014 | by AMRA


Between 10-40% of women develop significant anxiety during pregnancy, an unsurprising fact given the associated physiological, hormonal, and lifestyle changes, and concerns about the impending responsibilities of parenthood. Perinatal anxiety is a risk factor for obstetrical complications and postpartum depression, and pharmacologic interventions are often contra-indicated. This underscores the need for effective behavioral treatments. Goodman et al. [Archives of Women’s Mental Health] designed an MBCT-derived intervention called CALM (Coping with Anxiety through Living Mindfully) Pregnancy to treat perinatal anxiety. A sample of 24 pregnant women with either generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or significant GAD symptoms (as assessed through structured clinical interview) were enrolled in the program. Attendance and compliance were good, with 23 women (96%) successfully completing the 8-week group-based program.

Participants reported large and significant reductions in anxiety, worry and depression, and large and significant increases in self-compassion and dispositional mindfulness (as measured by the MAAS). Of the 16 participants who met the full diagnostic criteria for GAD at baseline, only 1 met the criteria at program completion. Similarly, the two women who met the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder at baseline no longer met the criteria at program completion. In an open-ended interview about what they had found most helpful, participants mentioned skill building, connection, universality, acceptance and self-kindness, decreased reactivity, cognitive changes, and insight.

This pilot study demonstrates the feasibility, acceptability, and potential effectiveness of the CALM Pregnancy program, at least for a population of mostly Caucasian, middle class, well-educated women. Future studies using randomly assigned controls will be needed to confirm the early promise of these findings in this and more diverse groups of women.


Goodman, J. H., Guarino, A., […]

February 7th, 2014|News|

MBSR Reduces Burnout in Primary Care Providers

Posted from archive: 10.07.2013 | by AMRA


Previous studies have shown that health care providers can be taught to be mindful, but busy clinicians often don’t have the time to attend lengthy programs. Fortney et al. [Annals of Family Medicine] tested the efficacy of an abbreviated form of MBSR in alleviating/ preventing symptoms of clinician burnout. The program offered 14 hours of mindfulness instruction over a three-day weekend, followed by two 2-hour post-training sessions. Exercises emphasized mindfulness while sitting, walking, listening and speaking, mindfulness in interaction with patients, and compassion for self and others. Participants were encouraged to practice 10 to 20 minutes per day at home.

Thirty primary care providers (physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants) participated in the program. They were assessed at baseline, immediately after the intervention, and at 8-week and 9-month follow-up on measures of burnout, depression, anxiety, stress, resilience, and compassion. While 63 of the participants had some prior meditation experience at some point in their life, only 7 were actively practicing meditation at the start of the study.

After the intervention, the clinicians reported significant decreases in emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, anxiety, and stress, and significant increases in a sense of personal accomplishment. All of these differences were significant at nine-month follow-up. No changes in clinician resilience or compassion were found, but the clinicians’ high scores on the brief five-item compassion scale at baseline left little room for improvement. These preliminary results suggest that abbreviated MBSR holds promise as a time, efficient means of improving clinician well-being, and, as a consequence, the quality of patient care.


Fortney, L., Luchterhand, C., Zakletskaia, L., Zgierska, A., & Rakel, D. (2013). Abbreviated mindfulness intervention for job satisfaction, quality […]

January 21st, 2014|News|

Sex Differences in Mindfulness Affect Romantic Conflict

Posted from archive: 10.28.2013 | by AMRA


Laurent et al. [Psychoneuroendocrinology] explored the relationship between dispositional mindfulness (measured by the FFMQ) and salivary cortisol reactivity in male and female members of 100 heterosexual couples who participated in a task designed to elicit acute stress in response to a romantic conflict. The task involved videotaping interactions in which the couples tried to resolve a relationship conflict.

Prior to the stress task, men and women showed differing relationships between the five FFMQ facets and mental health variables. Women exhibited significant negative correlations between FFMQ non-reactivity and non-judging and self-ratings of depression and anxiety, and a positive correlation between those same facets and psychological well-being. FFMQ acting with awareness and describing also correlated negatively with women’s depression and positively with women’s well-being. For men, FFMQ non-reacting correlated positively with well-being; FFMQ acting with awareness correlated negatively with depression; and FFMQ non-judging correlated negatively with depression and anxiety.

The relationship between the stressful task, mindfulness, and cortisol reactivity was complex and dependent on sex. Women reporting high scores on FFMQ non-reacting had higher cortisol levels after relationship conflict. Men who were high on FFMQ describing had less pronounced cortisol reactivity/recovery curves and less steep cortisol recovery slopes. Lower stress-related cortisol levels in women were linked to increased depressive symptoms, whereas lower stress-related cortisol levels and less pronounced reactivity/recovery curves were linked to improved well-being in men.

These results demonstrate different cortisol trajectories for men and women in response to relationship-related stress. Despite these differences, mindfulness seems to help members of each sex achieve an optimal state of stress reactivity, albeit by different pathways. The study suggests that mindfulness can play a protective role in […]

January 9th, 2014|News|

Neurocognitive Impact of MBCT in Bipolar Patients

Posted from archive: 07.26.2013 | by AMRA


Ives-Deliperi et al. [Journal of Affective Disorders] compared 16 bipolar patients before and after MBCT with a wait-list control of 7 bipolar patients and a cohort of 10 untreated healthy controls. Participants were assessed for emotional and cognitive symptoms and underwent fMRIs while performing mindfulness meditation. The patient cohort consisted of bipolar I and bipolar 2 patients with only minimal or sub-threshold symptomatology.

Prior to MBCT, the bipolar participants exhibited higher anxiety and stress, poorer working memory, and lower medial prefrontal cortical (PFC) activity than healthy controls. After MBCT, bipolar patients exhibited decreased anxiety and improved mindfulness (as measured by the FFMQ), working memory, spatial memory, verbal fluency, and emotional regulation compared with wait-list controls.

In addition, the MBCT group exhibited increased activity in the medial PFC and the right posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) compared with wait-list controls and increased left anterior cingulate cortical (ACC) activity compared with healthy controls. Increased medial PFC function correlated significantly (r= .61) with improved FFMQ scores. The findings demonstrate MBCT’s positive impact on the core symptoms of emotional dysregulation and executive dysfunction in bipolar disorder.

Reference: Ives-Deliperi, V. L., Howells, F., Stein, D. J., Meintjes, E. M., & Horn, N. (2013). The effects of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in patients with bipolar disorder: A controlled functional MRI investigation. Journal of Affective Disorders, 150(3):1152-7. [PMID: 23790741]

[Link to abstract]

January 6th, 2014|News|

Mindfulness Relieves Burnout in Grade School Teachers

Posted from archive: 06.25.2013 | by AMRA


Roeser et al. [Journal of Education Psychology] tested an 8-week mindfulness training, based on MBSR but designed specifically for grade school teachers, that focused group discussions and homework assignments on teaching-related concerns. Teachers (N=113) from Canada and the U.S. were randomly assigned to either mindfulness training or a wait-list control.

Teachers in the mindfulness condition showed higher levels of self-reported mindfulness (as measured by the FFMQ) and occupational self-compassion, and lower levels of self-reported occupational stress and burnout, anxiety, and depression than did controls both at program’s end and at 3-month follow-up. The effect sizes were large, ranging from 0.57 to 1.56. Changes in stress, burnout, depression, and anxiety were all mediated by changes in mindfulness and occupational self-compassion.

The Canadian teachers also completed an objective measure of working memory (the ability to hold multiple items of information in mind simultaneously) using a task requiring the recall of strings of digits while checking math problems for accuracy.

Teachers in the mindfulness group showed significantly better working memory capacity after training than did controls, but the effects on working memory were small, ranging from 0.15 to 0.33. Measures of cortisol, blood pressure, and heart rate were also obtained from the Canadian teachers, but yielded no significant changes over time. Most teachers (87%) completed the program, and 98 would recommend it to their peers. Average ratings on a 5-point scale of perceived benefit were high, both for professional (4.10) and personal (4.58) benefit.


Roeser, R. W., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Jha, A., Cullen, M., Wallace, L., Wilensky, R., . . . Harrison, J. (2013). Mindfulness training and reductions in teacher stress and burnout: Results from two randomized, waitlist-control […]

January 3rd, 2014|News|

MBSR and Long-Term Active Coping in People with Breast Cancer

Posted from archive: 02.21.2013 | by AMRA


Henderson et al. [Integrative Cancer Therapies] compared MBSR to nutrition education (NEP) and treatment as usual (TAU) in 40 breast cancer patients actively undergoing radiation therapy.

MBSR participants outperformed both control groups on 16 variables four months after the intervention. These variables reflected improved quality of life and adaptive coping, reduced avoidance coping, increased meaningfulness and spirituality, and decreased psychopathology.

Group differences tended to diminish over time, so that by the end of two-year follow-up, MBSR participants only showed superior scores on meaningfulness, active cognitive coping, and less anxious preoccupation.


Henderson, V. P., Massion, A. O., Clemow, L., Hurley, T. G., Druker, S., & Hébert, J. R. (2013). A randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction for women with early-stage breast cancer receiving radiotherapy. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 12(5):404-13. [PMID: 23362338]

[Link to abstract]

December 27th, 2013|News|

MindfulKids Helps Children Differentiate Emotions

Posted from archive: 01.29.2013 | by AMRA


Weijer-Bergsma et al. [Journal of Child and Family Studies] studied the effects of a MindfulKids school-based intervention on 199 boys and girls (aged 8-12) from diverse ethnic backgrounds in three Dutch primary schools. The 6-week program, modeled on MBSR, was taught in twice-weekly 30-minute sessions. Classroom teachers reinforced the program with daily 5-minute meditations. Half the children initially completed the program, while those in a wait-list control completed the program afterwards.

At program’s end, the children had enhanced their bodily awareness and shared emotions more readily. At 7-week follow-up, the children maintained those gains and also improved their ability to differentiate emotions, increased their sense that life was meaningful and manageable, and decreased rumination and analysis of emotions. In addition, the parents reported decreased anxiety and angry/aggressive behavior at home. All these effects were small, yet significant. Lastly, teachers noted a friendlier, more respectful classroom climate.

The children’s response to the intervention depended on their degree of rumination. Non-ruminators increased bodily awareness and attention to other’s emotions, and decreased angry/aggressive behavior. Ruminators, on the other hand, already high at pretest on bodily awareness and attention to other’s emotions and low on angry/aggressive behaviors, showed no such changes. Instead, they decreased analyzing emotions (already high at pretest), in line with the MindfulKids emphasis on observing but not getting entangled in emotions.


van de Weijer-Bergsma, E., Formsma, A. R., de Bruin, E. I., & Bögels, S. M. (2012). The effectiveness of mindfulness training on behavioral problems and attentional functioning in adolescents with ADHD. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21(5), 775-787.

[Link to abstract]

December 24th, 2013|News|