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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|

Mindful eating of sweets boosts food enjoyment and mood

Posted 10.25.2016 | by AMRA


Who doesn’t love chocolate? It’s one of the world’s most craved after foods due to its combined taste, pleasant physiologic effects, and past association with pleasant social events and youthful memories. It’s also alleged to have a positive effect on mood. Meier et al. [Appetite] explored chocolate’s ability to induce a pleasant mood and the degree to which mindfulness while eating influences its possible mood effect.

The researchers recruited 258 college students (65% female, 82% Caucasian, average age = 19) and randomly assigned them to one of four experimental conditions: a mindful chocolate condition, a mindful cracker condition, a non-mindful chocolate condition, and a non-mindful cracker condition. Participants were given either five pieces of chocolate candy or five plain water table crackers.

Before eating, participants listened to either an audio recording of mindfulness instructions similar to those used in the MBSR raisin eating meditation, or to brief control instructions telling them to eat one cracker at a time. The participants completed several self-report mood questionnaires both immediately before and after eating the chocolate or crackers. They also completed a food liking scale immediately after eating and rated mindfulness while eating using the Toronto Mindfulness Scale (TMS).

Participants in the mindfulness conditions scored significantly higher on the TMS, showing that the experimental manipulation effectively induced a mindful state (partial η2=.03). Participants in the mindfulness conditions enjoyed their food significantly more (partial η2=.02) than those in the non-mindful conditions, and those who ate the chocolate enjoyed their food significantly more than those who ate the crackers (partial η2=.08).

Participants in the mindfulness conditions also had significantly larger increases in positive mood after eating than did those in the […]

October 25th, 2016|News|

10-day Vipassana Retreat Improves Wellness

Posted from archive: 07.04.2013 | by AMRA


Krygier et al. [International Journal of Psychophysiology] studied the effects of a 10-day Goenka Vipassana retreat on heart rate variability (HRV) in 36 first-time retreat participants. HRV is a measure of parasympathetic activity that is also a biomarker for subjective well-being, cardiovascular health, and reduced all-cause mortality. Retreat participants completed pre- and post- self-report measures of psychological well-being as well as HRV during mindful attention to their breathing and during a resting baseline.

HRV measures included absolute, normalized, and log transformed measures of high frequency power, along with a measure of low frequency Traube-Hering-Meyer wave (THM) power. High frequency power reflects vagal tone, whereas low frequency THM power reflects baroreceptor activity.

Participants reported significant improvements in satisfaction with life, mindfulness (as measured by the MAAS), and positive affect, and significantly decreased depression, stress and negative affect from pretest to posttest. Effect sizes were all moderate to large. Participants with greater HRV high frequency power had less negative affect, and those with lower THM power had less negative affect, stress, and depression. Absolute high frequency power was greater during meditation than while at rest, but there was no effect of meditation on either normalized high frequency power or THM power.

The Vipassana retreat had a complicated interaction effect on the difference between HRV during meditation and while at rest. Log transformed High Frequency power was higher during meditation than at rest before the retreat, but not after. Conversely, THM power was lower (and normalized high frequency power higher) during meditation compared to at rest after the retreat, but not before. A profound loss in THM power during post-retreat meditation accounts for this, and probably reflects […]

January 5th, 2014|News|

Brief Meditation Shifts Frontal Brain Asymmetry to Promote Mood Regulation

Posted from archive: 03.26.2013 | by AMRA


Keune et al. [Biological Psychology] studied the effects of mindfulness meditation on frontal EEG alpha wave asymmetry. It is generally held that relatively higher left frontal alpha power is associated with depression and avoidance motivation, whereas relatively higher right frontal alpha power is associated with approach motivation. While studies agree that mindfulness enhances relative right frontal alpha in healthy adults, the data for depressed adults is contradictory.

To clarify this, the authors measured frontal alpha asymmetry in 57 women with a history of recurrent depressive disorder. They recorded EEGs at baseline, after the induction of a sad mood, and after twenty minutes of either mindfulness meditation or a rumination challenge. In both the conditions, participants were told to focus on their breath, but one group received additional mindfulness instructions, while the other heard distracting instructions to ruminate, which they were told to try to ignore. Participants received no prior training in meditation.

In accord with previous studies, greater baseline left alpha power correlated with depressive symptoms, and greater baseline right alpha power correlated with positive mood. More importantly, mindfulness meditation shifted alpha activation toward the right and reduced negative affect, while there was no similar effect for the rumination challenge. The results support the theory that mindfulness shifts frontal asymmetry, promoting approach motivation and thereby facilitating mood regulation. The study was limited by nonrandom assignment to conditions.


Keune, P. M., Bostanov, V., Hautzinger, M., & Kotchoubey, B. (2013). Approaching dysphoric mood: State-effects of mindfulness meditation on frontal brain asymmetry. Biological Psychology, 93(1),105-13. [PMID: 23410762]

[Link to abstract]

December 29th, 2013|News|

Body Scan, Yoga, and Sitting Meditation Affect Immune Function in Older Adults

Posted from archive: 03.11.2013 | by AMRA


Gallegos et al. [Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine] performed new, more detailed analyses of the results of a prior, unpublished, study. That study of 100 older MBSR participants (ages 65+) showed an unexpected decrease in antibody response to an immune challenge when compared with a wait list control. Conversely, previous studies with younger adults showed that MBSR had improved their immunity.

The current study explored the relative contributions of separate MBSR components (yoga, sitting meditation, informal meditation, body scan, and perceived social support) to a variety of biological and psychological measures, including insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which is associated with increased longevity, an interleukin (IL-6) associated with inflammation, two antibodies (IgM and IgG) associated with immune response, and self-ratings of positive affect. The researchers provoked an immune response by injecting participants with keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH), a carrier protein used in vaccinations.

Yoga and sitting meditation both increased IGF-1 levels, while perceived social support lowered IL-6 levels. Yoga had a significant beneficial effect on positive affect. The body scan and yoga both contributed to the decreased antibody response to KLH immunization. Can MBSR impair immunity in older adults? More research is needed for it is possible, for example, that the observed antibody decrease was offset by increases in macrophages and lymphocytes.


Gallegos, A. M., Hoerger, M., Talbot, N. L., Krasner, M. S., Knight, J. M., Moynihan, J. A., & Duberstein, P. R. (2013). Toward identifying the effects of the specific components of mindfulness-based stress reduction on biologic and emotional outcomes among older adults. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 19(10), 787-92. [PMID: 23383976]

[Link to abstract]

December 28th, 2013|News|

Mindfulness Meditation Superior to Sleep Hygiene for Cancer Survivors

Posted from archive: 02.07.2013 | by AMRA


Nakamura et al [Journal of Cancer Survivorship] compared three interventions in 57 cancer survivors with self-reported problems sleeping. Participants were randomly assigned to sleep hygiene education (SHE), mindfulness meditation (MM), or mind, body bridging (MBB). All interventions were delivered in three 2-hour group sessions, with home practice left to the participants’ discretion.

MM was a shortened version of MBSR that included sitting and walking meditation, the body scan, and a forgiveness meditation. MBB shares features with MM (sensory awareness, non, judgmental attitude, decontextualization of thought) but doesn’t include formal meditation practice. It trains participants to “rest” their “identify systems” through sensory awareness, identify the irrational demands the system places on reality and on oneself, and disengage from those demands in a friendly manner, thus loosening an identification with a false sense of self, and getting in touch with an undamaged sense of wholeness.

All three interventions significantly improved self-reported sleep quality, with both MBB and MM proving superior to SHE. MBB participants also showed significant improvement on secondary measures of self-reported depression, mindfulness, and self-compassion when compared with the SHE control group, while MM participants showed a nonsignificant trend in the same direction of benefit.


Nakamura, Y., Lipschitz, D. L., Kuhn, R., Kinney, A. Y., & Donaldson, G. W. (2013). Investigating efficacy of two brief mind-body intervention programs for managing sleep disturbance in cancer survivors: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Journal of Cancer Survivorship: Research and Practice, 7(2):165-82. [PMID: 23338490]

[Link to abstract]

December 26th, 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|