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Mindful attention helps regulate amount of food consumed

Posted 04.15.2016 | by AMRA


Can being mindfully aware heighten the pleasure of eating? Arch et al. [Behavior Research and Therapy] addressed this question in a series of studies while also exploring whether mindfulness promotes more healthful food choices.

In the first study, 81 male and female undergraduates were randomly assigned to either a mindful eating or a distracted eating condition. Participants in the mindful eating condition were instructed to eat a series of five chocolate chips while focusing on their sensory experience. Participants in the distraction condition ate their chocolate chips while searching for hidden words in a find-a-word puzzle. Mindful participants rated their chocolate chips as significantly more enjoyable (Cohen’s d = 0.51) and had a marginally significantly greater desire to eat another chocolate chip (d = 0.38) than distracted eaters.

In the second experiment with 136 male and female undergraduates, the researchers repeated the first study using raisins instead of chocolate chips. Mindful eaters showed a marginally significant tendency to enjoy the raisins more (d = 0.27) and a significantly higher desire to eat another raisin (d = 0.39) than distracted eaters.

The researchers wanted to know if people who ate mindfully ended up consuming more calories because they enjoyed eating more, or fewer calories because their improved attention led to greater behavioral control. In the third study, 102 male and female undergraduates again ate raisins, but were randomly assigned to either a mindful eating group that was instructed to focus on their sensory experience, a distracted eating group that was told to focus on find-a-word puzzles while eating, or a “no special instructions” control. The mindful eaters again rated the raisins as significantly more enjoyable and […]

April 15th, 2016|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|

Mindfulness helps to restore self-control over aggressive behavior

Posted : 02.09.2015 | by AMRA


People are less able to control themselves after an act of self-restraint. One attempt at self-restraint may deplete the emotional resources needed to engage in self-restraint again on a subsequent try. Yousainy et al. [Consciousness and Cognition] explored whether mindfulness might lessen this effect by helping people to reduce aggressive responding after a prior act of self-control.

One hundred and ten participants (mean age = 20 years) were shown a six-minute video while irrelevant words flashed on the screen. Half of the participants were instructed to ignore the words (the self-restraint condition), while the other half did not have to ignore them. Then half of the participants in each condition listened to a mindfulness meditation audiotape (the mindfulness condition), while the other half listened to an educational tape.

Afterward, participants engaged in a computerized contest against a simulated “opponent”. Each time participants lost, they received a noxious noise of predetermined loudness over their headphones. When the participants won, they could retaliate against the opponent by selecting a noxious sound of their own to deliver at different loudness intensities.

As a rule, the louder the opponent’s provocation, the louder the participant’s retaliation. Participants in the self-restraint condition chose significantly louder retaliations in response to provocations than did controls. Participants in the self-restraint condition who subsequently listened to the mindfulness tape delivered significantly lower intensity retaliations than their non-mindful self-restraint condition peers. These group differences existed for low and moderate noise intensities but disappeared for high intensity.

Findings from this study demonstrate that mindfulness induction can decrease some aggressive retaliation behavior following prior acts of self-restraint. Mindfulness may restore the emotional resources needed to maintain self-control, […]

February 9th, 2015|News|

Mindfulness curriculum promotes prosocial behavior in preschoolers

Posted: 12.15.2014 | by AMRA


Young children’s capacity to self-regulate attention and emotion contributes to their scholastic success and predicts their academic attainment. There is a need for programs that enhance children’s self-regulation skills, and mindfulness-based interventions that promote sustained attention, self-monitoring, and cognitive flexibility may be good candidates. Flook et al. [Developmental Psychology] developed a mindfulness-based Kindness Curriculum (KC) for preschool-aged children and tested its ability to improve their executive functioning, self-regulation, and academic and social development.

Sixty-eight ethnically-diverse children in 6 urban Midwestern preschools were randomly assigned to either KC or a wait-list control condition. KC was administered in two 20-30 minute weekly sessions over 12 weeks, and emphasized mindfulness, empathy, gratitude and sharing through multiple modalities including music, children’s literature, and movement. The children were tested immediately before and after the program on behavioral tasks of willingness to share and willingness to delay gratification, and computerized tasks of cognitive flexibility and freedom from distraction. Their teachers rated their social competence before and after the intervention and assigned routine report card grades three months after program completion.

The KC children showed significantly greater improvement in their teacher-rated prosocial behavior (Cohen’s d = 0.29) and emotional regulation (d = 0.25), than did the control children. The KC children also showed significantly greater report card improvement on Approaches to Learning (d = 0.54), Health and Physical Development (d = 0.56), and Social and Emotional Development (d = 0.97).

On the willingness-to-share task (a task involving the children dividing up ten stickers between themselves and their peers), control children displayed significantly more selfish behavior over time, reserving more of the stickers for themselves, while the KC children did not display […]

December 15th, 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|