Background Transcendental Meditation (TM), a sitting meditation technique designed to quiet the mind and induce physical and mental relaxation, has been widely studied in adults. Objective Our objective was to explore systematically the first-person experience of young adolescents who practice TM. Design A descriptive, qualitative study using semistructured interviews. Setting Middle school setting. Participants Participants included 10 seventh grade students who have practiced TM for a one-year period of time. Results Themes described by students resulting from meditation included the following: (1) an increasing state of restful alertness; (2) improvement in skills indicative of emotional intelligence (self-control, self-reflection/awareness, and flexibility in emotional response); and (3) improvement in academic performance. The state of restful alertness induced by meditation appeared central to facilitating growth in social-emotional capacities, academic performance, and flexibility in emotional response. The inner state of restful alertness provided students with greater capacity to expand their ways of looking inwardly at themselves and their relationships with others (emotional intelligence) as well as focusing their attention on controlling their behavior and keeping on task in school. Conclusions Students described beneficial effects of TM: an increased state of restful alertness and greater capacity for self-reflection, self-control, and flexibility as well as improved academic performance. The state of restful alertness induced by meditation may facilitate the growth of social-emotional capacities necessary for regulating the emotional labiality and interpersonal stress of adolescence. Future empirical validation is needed to analyze systematically the impact of this practice on students’ social-emotional and cognitive development and to determine whether its practice can serve as a protective function for helping students successfully meet the challenges of adolescence.
Subjects were presented with videotaped expressions of 10 classic Hindu emotions. The 10 emotions were (in rough translation from Sanskrit) anger, disgust, fear, heroism, humor-amusement, love, peace, sadness, shame-embarrassment, and wonder. These emotions (except for shame) and their portrayal were described about 2,000 years ago in the Natyasastra, and are enacted in the contemporary Hindu classical dance. The expressions are dynamic and include both the face and the body, especially the hands. Three different expressive versions of each emotion were presented, along with 15 neutral expressions. American and Indian college students responded to each of these 45 expressions using either a fixed-response format (10 emotion names and "neutral/no emotion") or a totally free response format. Participants from both countries were quite accurate in identifying emotions correctly using both fixed-choice (65% correct, expected value of 9%) and free-response (61% correct, expected value close to zero) methods.
In Australia, 14% of children and adolescents have a significant mental health problem, which is similar to global prevalence estimates of 12%. Teaching children techniques in mindfulness meditation has been recommended to improve their mental health. However, the recommendations are based mainly on efficacy in adult clinical trials, and insufficiently on trials with children and adolescents in a classroom setting. This mindfulness meditation pilot project involved training teachers at two primary schools in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, Australia to deliver a ten-week mindfulness curriculum and optional daily mindfulness exercises to students in grades 5 and 6 (ages 10 to 12). Pre- and post-program, students completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and a modified version of the Children's Depression Inventory (CDI). On both scales there was a significant decrease in overall average score and the number of children in the diagnostic categories, 25.6% scoring in the borderline or diagnostic category for the SDQ pre-program and 16.3% post-program. For the CDI this was 25.8% pre- and 21.6% post-. The study is limited by its use of a pre-post design without comparison group. However, qualitative findings from teachers assist in discerning key themes, and this pilot study suggests the potential of more formal experimental testing of mindfulness training as an element of a whole-school mental health promotion program.
On the basis of the widespread belief that emotions underpin psychological adjustment, the authors tested 3 predicted relations between externalizing problems and anger, internalizing problems and fear and sadness, and the absence of externalizing problems and social-moral emotion (embarrassment). Seventy adolescent boys were classified into 1 of 4 comparison groups on the basis of teacher reports using a behavior problem checklist: internalizers, externalizers, mixed (both internalizers and externalizers), and nondisordered boys. The authors coded the facial expressions of emotion shown by the boys during a structured social interaction. Results supported the 3 hypotheses: (a) Externalizing adolescents showed increased facial expressions of anger, (b) on 1 measure internalizing adolescents showed increased facial expressions of fear, and (c) the absence of externalizing problems (or nondisordered classification) was related to increased displays of embarrassment. Discussion focused on the relations of these findings to hypotheses concerning the role of impulse control in antisocial behavior.
BACKGROUND: Two core characteristics of pathologic fear are its rapid onset and resistance to cognitive regulation. We hypothesized that activation of the amygdala early in the presentation of fear-relevant visual stimuli would distinguish phobics from nonphobics. METHODS: Chronometry of amygdala activation to phobia-relevant pictures was assessed in 13 spider phobics and 14 nonphobics using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). RESULTS: Blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) responses in the amygdala early in picture processing consistently differentiated between phobic and nonphobic subjects, as well as between phobogenic and nonphobogenic stimuli among phobics. Furthermore, amygdalar BOLD responses associated with timing but not magnitude of activation predicted affective responses to phobogenic stimuli. Computational modeling procedures were used to identify patterns of neural activation in the amygdala that could yield the observed BOLD data. These data suggest that phobic responses were characterized by strong but brief amygdala responses, whereas nonphobic responses were weaker and more sustained. CONCLUSIONS: Results are discussed in the context of the amygdala's role in rapid threat detection and the vigilance-avoidance hypothesis of anxiety. These data highlight the importance of examining the neural substrates of the immediate impact of phobogenic stimuli for understanding pathological fear.
Youth in underserved, urban communities are at risk for a range of negative outcomes related to stress, including social-emotional difficulties, behavior problems, and poor academic performance. Mindfulness-based approaches may improve adjustment among chronically stressed and disadvantaged youth by enhancing self-regulatory capacities. This paper reports findings from a pilot randomized controlled trial assessing the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary outcomes of a school-based mindfulness and yoga intervention. Four urban public schools were randomized to an intervention or wait-list control condition (n = 97 fourth and fifth graders, 60.8% female). It was hypothesized that the 12-week intervention would reduce involuntary stress responses and improve mental health outcomes and social adjustment. Stress responses, depressive symptoms, and peer relations were assessed at baseline and post-intervention. Findings suggest the intervention was attractive to students, teachers, and school administrators and that it had a positive impact on problematic responses to stress including rumination, intrusive thoughts, and emotional arousal.
In this article, we consider whether facial expressions of emotion relate in theoretically interesting ways to personal adjustment. We first consider the conceptual benefits of this line of inquiry. Then, to anticipate why brief samples of emotional behavior should relate to personal adjustment, we review evidence indicating that facial expressions of emotion correspond to intrapersonal processes and social outcomes. We then review studies showing that facial expressions relate in theoretically significant ways to adjustment after the death of a spouse, in long-term relationships, and in the context of chronic psychological disorders.
The LASS theory proposes that Language and Situated Simulation both play central roles in conceptual processing. Depending on stimuli and task conditions, different mixtures of language and simulation occur. When a word is processed in a conceptual task, it first activates other linguistic forms, such as word associates. More slowly, the word activates a situated simulation to represent its meaning in neural systems for perception, action, and mental states. An fMRI experiment tested the LASS account. In a first scanning session, participants performed the property generation task to provide a measure of conceptual processing. In a second scanning session a week later, participants performed two localizer tasks measuring word association and situated simulation. Conjunction analyses supported predictions of the LASS theory. Activations early in conceptual processing overlapped with activations for word association. Activations late in conceptual processing overlapped with activations for situation generation. These results, along with others in the literature, indicate that conceptual processing uses multiple representations, not one. Furthermore, researchers must be careful drawing conclusions about conceptual processing, given that different paradigms are likely to produce different mixtures of language and simulation. Whereas some paradigms produce high levels of linguistic processing and low levels of simulation, other paradigms produce the opposite pattern.
Individuals differ dramatically in the quality and intensity of their response to affectively evocative stimuli. On the basis of prior theory and research, we hypothesized that these individual differences are related to variation in activation of the left and right frontal brain regions. We recorded baseline brain electrical activity from subjects on two occasions 3 weeks apart. Immediately following the second recording, subjects were exposed to brief positive and negative emotional film clips. For subjects whose frontal asymmetry was stable across the 3-week period, greater left frontal activation was associated with reports of more intense positive affect in response to the positive films, whereas greater right frontal activation was associated with more intense reports of negative affect in response to the negative film clips. The methodological and theoretical implications of these data are discussed.
The relation between brain activity and the immune system was evaluated by assessing immune responses in 20 healthy women who manifested extreme differences in the asymmetry of frontal cortex activation. One group showed extreme and stable left frontal activation; the other group showed extreme and stable right frontal activation. As predicted, women with extreme right frontal activation had significantly lower levels of natural killer cell activity (at effector:target cell ratios of 33:1 and 11:1) than did left frontally activated individuals. This difference did not extend to two other immune measures, lymphocyte proliferation and T-cell subsets. However, higher immunoglobulin levels of the M class were observed in the right frontal group. In this study, the immune patterns could not be accounted for by plasma cortisol levels, anxiety- and depression-related symptomatology, or recent health histories. These findings support the hypothesis that there is a specific association between frontal brain asymmetry and certain immune responses.
BACKGROUND: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques were used to identify the neural circuitry underlying emotional processing in control and depressed subjects. Depressed subjects were studied before and after treatment with venlafaxine. This new technique provides a method to noninvasively image regional brain function with unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution. METHOD: Echo-planar imaging was used to acquire whole brain images while subjects viewed positively and negatively valenced visual stimuli. Two control subjects and two depressed subjects who met DSM-IV criteria for major depression were scanned at baseline and 2 weeks later. Depressed subjects were treated with venlafaxine after the baseline scan. RESULTS: Preliminary results from this ongoing study revealed three interesting trends in the data. Both depressed patients demonstrated considerable symptomatic improvement at the time of the second scan. Across control and depressed subjects, the negative compared with the positive pictures elicited greater global activation. In both groups, activation induced by the negative pictures decreased from the baseline scan to the 2-week scan. This decrease in activation was also present in the control subjects when they were exposed to the positive pictures. In contrast, when the depressed subjects were presented with the positive pictures they showed no activation at baseline, whereas after 2 weeks of treatment an area of activation emerged in right secondary visual cortex. CONCLUSION: While preliminary, these results demonstrate the power of using fMRI to study emotional processes in normal and depressed subjects and to examine mechanisms of action of antidepressant drugs.
BACKGROUND: The broad autism phenotype includes subclinical autistic characteristics found to have a higher prevalence in unaffected family members of individuals with autism. These characteristics primarily affect the social aspects of language, communication, and human interaction. The current research focuses on possible neurobehavioral characteristics associated with the broad autism phenotype. METHODS: We used a face-processing task associated with atypical patterns of gaze fixation and brain function in autism while collecting brain functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and eye tracking in unaffected siblings of individuals with autism. RESULTS: We found robust differences in gaze fixation and brain function in response to images of human faces in unaffected siblings compared with typically developing control individuals. The siblings' gaze fixations and brain activation patterns during the face processing task were similar to that of the autism group and showed decreased gaze fixation along with diminished fusiform activation compared with the control group. Furthermore, amygdala volume in the siblings was similar to the autism group and was significantly reduced compared with the control group. CONCLUSIONS: Together, these findings provide compelling evidence for differences in social/emotional processing and underlying neural circuitry in siblings of individuals with autism, supporting the notion of unique endophenotypes associated with the broad autism phenotype.
The prefrontal cortex (PFC) has been well known for its role in higher order cognition, affect regulation and social reasoning. Although the precise underpinnings have not been sufficiently described, increasing evidence also supports a prefrontal involvement in the regulation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Here we investigate the PFC's role in HPA axis regulation during a psychosocial stress exposure in 14 healthy humans. Regional brain metabolism was assessed using positron emission tomography (PET) and injection of fluoro-18-deoxyglucose (FDG). Depending on the exact location within the PFC, increased glucose metabolic rate was associated with lower or higher salivary cortisol concentration in response to a psychosocial stress condition. Metabolic glucose rate in the rostral medial PFC (mPFC) (Brodman area (BA) 9 and BA 10) was negatively associated with stress-induced salivary cortisol increases. Furthermore, metabolic glucose rate in these regions was inversely coupled with changes in glucose metabolic rate in other areas, known to be involved in HPA axis regulation such as the amygdala/hippocampal region. In contrast, metabolic glucose rate in areas more lateral to the mPFC was positively associated with saliva cortisol. Subjective ratings on task stressfulness, task controllability and self-reported dispositional mood states also showed positive and negative associations with the glucose metabolic rate in prefrontal regions. These findings suggest that in humans, the PFC is activated in response to psychosocial stress and distinct prefrontal metabolic glucose patterns are linked to endocrine stress measures as well as subjective ratings on task stressfulness, controllability as well as dispositional mood states.
This multimethod series of studies merges the literatures on gratitude and risk regulation to test a new process model of gratitude and relationship maintenance. We develop a measure of appreciation in relationships and use cross-sectional, daily experience, observational, and longitudinal methods to test our model. Across studies, we show that people who feel more appreciated by their romantic partners report being more appreciative of their partners. In turn, people who are more appreciative of their partners report being more responsive to their partners' needs (Study 1), and are more committed and more likely to remain in their relationships over time (Study 2). Appreciative partners are also rated by outside observers as relatively more responsive and committed during dyadic interactions in the laboratory, and these behavioral displays are one way in which appreciation is transmitted from one partner to the other (Study 3). These findings provide evidence that gratitude is important for the successful maintenance of intimate bonds.
Aims: To investigate the effect of two yoga-based relaxation techniques, namely, cyclic meditation (CM) and supine rest (SR), using the six letter cancellation task (SLCT). Materials and Methods: The subjects consisted of 208 school students, (132 boys, 76 girls) in the age range of 13 – 16 years. The subjects were assessed on SLCT before and immediately after both yoga-based relaxation techniques. Results: After both practices, the total and net scores were significantly increased, although the magnitude of change was more after CM than after SR in the net scores (14.5 versus 11.31%). The net score change in the CM session was significantly larger than the change in the SR, whereas, there was no significant change in the wrong cancellation score. After either practice, the total and net scores were significantly increased, irrespective of gender and age. Conclusions: Both CM and SR led to improvement in performance, as assessed by SLCT, but the change caused by CM was larger than SR.
Two groups of 45 children each, whose ages ranged from 9 to 13 years, were assessed on a steadiness test, at the beginning and again at the end of a 10-day period during which one group received training in yoga, while the other group did not. The steadiness test required insertion of and holding for 15 sec. a metal stylus without touching the sides of holes of decreasing sizes in a metal plate. The contacts were counted as 'errors'. During the 10-day period, one group (the 'Yoga' group) received training in special physical postures (asanas), voluntary regulation of breathing (Pranayama), maintenance of silence, as well as visual focussing exercises (tratakas) and games to improve the attention span and memory. The other group (control) carried out their usual routine. After 10 days, the 'Yoga' group showed a significant (Wilcoxon's paired signed-ranks test) decrease in errors, whereas the 'control' group showed no change.
This research assessed whether individual differences in anterior brain asymmetry are linked to differences in basic dimensions of emotion. In each of 2 experimental sessions, separated by 3 weeks, resting electroencephalogram (EEG) activity was recorded from female adults during 8 60-s baselines. Mean alpha power asymmetry across both sessions was extracted in mid-frontal and anterior temporal sites. Across both regions, groups demonstrating stable and extreme relative left anterior activation reported increased generalized positive affect (PA) and decreased generalized negative affect (NA) compared with groups demonstrating stable and extreme relative right anterior activation. Additional correlational analyses revealed robust relations between anterior asymmetry and PA and NA, particularly among subjects who demonstrated stable patterns of EEG activation over time. Anterior asymmetry was unrelated to individual differences in generalized reactivity.
Reliable individual differences in electrophysiological measures of prefrontal activation asymmetry exist and predict dispositional mood and other psychological and biological indices of affective style. Subjects with greater relative right-sided activation report more dispositional negative affect and react with greater intensity to negative emotional challenges than their left-activated counterparts. We previously established that such individual differences in measures of prefrontal activation asymmetry were related to basal NK function, with left-activated subjects exhibiting higher levels of NK function than right-activated subjects. The present study was designed to replicate and extend these earlier findings. Subjects were tested in five experimental sessions over the course of 1 year. During the first two sessions, baseline measures of brain electrical activity were obtained to derive indices of asymmetric activation. During sessions 3 and 4, blood samples were taken during a nonstressful period in the semester and then 24 h prior to the subjects' most important final examination. During session 5, subjects were presented with positive and negative film clips 30 min in duration. Blood samples were obtained before and after the film clips. Subjects with greater relative right-sided activation at baseline showed lower levels of basal NK function. They also showed a greater decrease in NK function during the final exam period compared to the baseline period. Subjects with greater relative left-sided activation showed a larger increase in NK function from before to after the positive film clip. These findings indicate that individual differences in electrophysiological measures of asymmetric prefrontal activation account for a significant portion of variance in both basal levels of, and change in NK function.
Prior studies assessing the relation between negative affective traits and cortisol have yielded inconsistent results. Two studies assessed the relation between individual differences in repressive-defensiveness and basal salivary cortisol levels. Experiment 1 assessed midafternoon salivary cortisol levels in men classified as repressors, high-anxious, or low-anxious. In Experiment 2, more rigorous controls were applied as salivary cortisol levels in women and men were assessed at 3 times of day on 3 separate days. In both studies, as hypothesized, repressors and high-anxious participants demonstrated higher basal cortisol levels than low-anxious participants. These findings suggest that both heightened distress and the inhibition of distress may be independently linked to relative elevations in cortisol. Also discussed is the possible mediational role of individual differences in responsivity to, or mobilization for, uncertainty or change.
Over the past decade, training in mindfulness—the intentional cultivation of moment-by-moment non-judgmental focused attention and awareness—has spread from its initial western applications in medicine to other fields, including education. This paper reviews research and curricula pertaining to the integration of mindfulness training into K-12 education, both indirectly by training teachers and through direct teaching of students. Research on the neurobiology of mindfulness in adults suggests that sustained mindfulness practice can enhance attentional and emotional self-regulation and promote flexibility, pointing toward significant potential benefits for both teachers and students. Early research results on three illustrative mindfulness-based teacher training initiatives suggest that personal training in mindfulness skills can increase teachers’ sense of well-being and teaching self-efficacy, as well as their ability to manage classroom behavior and establish and maintain supportive relationships with students. Since 2005, 14 studies of programs that directly train students in mindfulness have collectively demonstrated a range of cognitive, social, and psychological benefits to both elementary (six studies) and high school (eight studies) students. These include improvements in working memory, attention, academic skills, social skills, emotional regulation, and self-esteem, as well as self-reported improvements in mood and decreases in anxiety, stress, and fatigue. The educational goals, target population, and core features of ten established mindfulness-based curricula are described. Finally, the need for more rigorous scientific evidence of the benefits of mindfulness-based interventions in K-12 education is discussed, along with suggestions of specific process, outcome, and research-design questions remaining to be answered.
Disruptive behavior in the classroom, poor academic performance, and emotional highs and lows: if you work with adolescents, you are well-aware of the challenges this age group presents. What if there were a way to help these students focus while equipping them with the mindfulness skills they need to excel in school and in life? 'Learning to Breathe* is a research-based curriculum designed to help adolescents reduce stress, improve their attention, manage emotions, and gain greater control over their own thoughts and actions - essential skills for optimizing classroom learning and promoting well-being. This breakthrough mindfulness-based program is structured around six themes that form the acronym BREATHE, and each theme has a core message. This book is the perfect tool for teachers, mental health professionals, or anyone who works with adolescents.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting behavioral and social cognition, but there is little understanding about the link between the functional deficit and its underlying neuroanatomy. We applied a 2D version of voxel-based morphometry (VBM) in differentiating the white matter concentration of the corpus callosum for the group of 16 high functioning autistic and 12 normal subjects. Using the white matter density as an index for neural connectivity, autism is shown to exhibit less white matter concentration in the region of the genu, rostrum, and splenium removing the effect of age based on the general linear model (GLM) framework. Further, it is shown that the less white matter concentration in the corpus callosum in autism is due to hypoplasia rather than atrophy.
On the basis of the proposition that love promotes commitment, the authors predicted that love would motivate approach, have a distinct signal, and correlate with commitment-enhancing processes when relationships are threatened. The authors studied romantic partners and adolescent opposite-sex friends during interactions that elicited love and threatened the bond. As expected, the experience of love correlated with approach-related states (desire, sympathy). Providing evidence for a nonverbal display of love, four affiliation cues (head nods, Duchenne smiles, gesticulation, forward leans) correlated with self-reports and partner estimates of love. Finally, the experience and display of love correlated with commitment-enhancing processes (e.g., constructive conflict resolution, perceived trust) when the relationship was threatened. Discussion focused on love, positive emotion, and relationships.
Self-conscious emotions such as embarrassment and shame are associated with 2 aspects of theory of mind (ToM): (a) the ability to understand that behavior has social consequences in the eyes of others and (b) an understanding of social norms violations. The present study aimed to link ToM with the recognition of self-conscious emotion. Children with and without autism identified facial expressions conscious of self-conscious and non-self-conscious emotions from photographs. ToM was also measured. Children with autism performed more poorly than comparison children at identifying self-conscious emotions, though they did not differ in the recognition of non-self-conscious emotions. When ToM ability was statistically controlled, group differences in the recognition of self-conscious emotion disappeared. Discussion focused on the links between ToM and self-conscious emotion.