OBJECTIVES: Given the demands of caring for chronically ill children, it is not surprising that caregivers often experience high levels of chronic stress. A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program may offer relief to these caregivers by providing tools for self-care and heath promotion that otherwise may be lacking. METHODS: MBSR classes were offered without restriction to parents of children attending various clinics at a large urban children's medical centre. Caregivers completed the Profile of Mood States (POMS) and Symptoms of Stress Inventory (SOSI) both before and after program participation. RESULTS: Forty-four caregivers participated in one of seven group MBSR sessions that were offered between August 2001 and February 2004. Most were mothers of children with special needs and various chronic conditions, who had been diagnosed an average of 7 years previous. Prior to the intervention, caregivers reported very high levels of stress and mood disturbance. These decreased substantially over the 8-week program, with an overall reduction in stress symptoms of 32% (p < .001), and in total mood disturbance of 56% (p < .001). CONCLUSIONS: This brief MBSR program for caregivers of chronically ill children was successful in significantly decreasing substantial stress symptoms and mood disturbance. Further studies would benefit from using more rigorous methodology and applying the program to other groups of chronically stressed caregivers.
Neuroanatomists posit that the central nucleus of the amygdala (Ce) and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST) comprise two major nodes of a macrostructural forebrain entity termed the extended amygdala. The extended amygdala is thought to play a critical role in adaptive motivational behavior and is implicated in the pathophysiology of maladaptive fear and anxiety. Resting functional connectivity of the Ce was examined in 107 young anesthetized rhesus monkeys and 105 young humans using standard resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) methods to assess temporal correlations across the brain. The data expand the neuroanatomical concept of the extended amygdala by finding, in both species, highly significant functional coupling between the Ce and the BST. These results support the use of in vivo functional imaging methods in nonhuman and human primates to probe the functional anatomy of major brain networks such as the extended amygdala.
Research in mindfulness-based methods with young people is just emerging in the practice/research literature. While much of this literature describes promising approaches that combine mindfulness with cognitive-behavioral therapy, this paper describes an innovative research-based group program that teaches young people in need mindfulness-based methods using arts-based methods. The paper presents qualitative research findings that illustrate how young people in need (children and youth involved with child protection and/or mental health systems) can benefit from a creative approach to mindfulness that can teach them emotional regulation, social and coping skills, and that can improve aspects of their self-awareness, self-esteem, and resilience.
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.
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.
Examined whether certain features of infant temperament might be related to individual differences in the asymmetry of resting frontal activation. EEG was recorded from the left and right frontal and parietal scalp regions of 13 normal 10-month-old infants. Infant behavior was then observed during a brief period of maternal separation. Those infants who cried in response to maternal separation showed greater right frontal activation during the preceding baseline period compared with infants who did not cry. Frontal activation asymmetry may be a state-independent marker for individual differences in threshold of reactivity to stressful events and vulnerability to particular emotions.
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.
Developments in technologic and analytical procedures applied to the study of brain electrical activity have intensified interest in this modality as a means of examining brain function. The impact of these new developments on traditional methods of acquiring and analyzing electroencephalographic activity requires evaluation. Ultimately, the integration of the old with the new must result in an accepted standardized methodology to be used in these investigations. In this paper, basic procedures and recent developments involved in the recording and analysis of brain electrical activity are discussed and recommendations are made, with emphasis on psychophysiological applications of these procedures.
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.
We discuss preliminary findings from a study that investigated the effectiveness of a Holistic Arts-Based Group Program (HAP) for the development of resilience in children in need. The HAP teaches mindfulness using arts-based methods, and aims to teach children how to understand their feelings and develop their strengths. We assessed the effectiveness of the HAP by using comparison and control groups, and standardized measures. We hypothesized that children who participated in the HAP would have better scores on resilience and self-concept compared with children who took part in an Arts and Crafts group (the comparison group), and children who were waiting to attend the HAP (the control group). A total of 36 children participated in the study; 20 boys aged 8–13 years and 16 girls aged 8–14 years. A mixed-designed MANOVA was conducted using scores from 21 participants. We found evidence that the HAP program was beneficial for the children in that they self-reported lower emotional reactivity (a resilience measure) post-intervention. No changes were noted for perceptions of self-concept. Consideration should be given to how we can attend to young people’s needs in relevant ways as resilience is a condition of a community’s ability to provide resources as much as it is part of an individual’s capacity for growth. Programs such as the HAP can engage children in a creative and meaningful process that is enjoyable and strengths-based.
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.
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.
Interest in applications of mindfulness-based approaches with adults has grown rapidly in recent times, and there is an expanding research base that suggests these are efficacious approaches to promoting psychological health and well-being. Interest has spread to applications of mindfulness-based approaches with children and adolescents, yet the research is still in its infancy. I aim to provide a preliminary review of the current research base of mindfulness-based approaches with children and adolescents, focusing on MBSR/MBCT models, which place the regular practice of mindfulness meditation at the core of the intervention. Overall, the current research base provides support for the feasibility of mindfulness-based interventions with children and adolescents, however there is no generalized empirical evidence of the efficacy of these interventions. For the field to advance, I suggest that research needs to shift away from feasibility studies towards large, well-designed studies with robust methodologies, and adopt standardized formats for interventions, allowing for replication and comparison studies, to develop a firm research evidence base.
- Contemplation by Applied Subject,
- Psychiatry and Contemplation,
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction / Cognitive Therapy,
- Parenting & Childcare and Contemplation,
- Psychotherapy and Contemplation,
- Preschool, Child Care, and Contemplation,
- K-12 Education and Contemplation,
- Health Care and Contemplation,
- Education and Contemplation,
- Psychology and Contemplation,
- Science and Contemplation
Stress within the teaching profession has a negative impact on the health and well-being of individual teachers and on retention and recruitment for the profession as a whole. There is increasing literature to suggest that Mindfulness is a useful intervention to address a variety of psychological problems, and that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a particularly helpful intervention for stress. We investigated the effects of teaching a MBSR course to primary school teachers to reduce stress. The MBSR course was taught to a group of primary school teachers and evaluated to establish its effects on levels of anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as movement towards a stated goal and changes in awareness. The results showed improvement for most participants for anxiety, depression, and stress, some of which were statistically significant. There were also significant improvements on two of the four dimensions of a mindfulness skills inventory. These results suggest that this approach could be a potentially cost-effective method to combat teacher stress and burnout.
Twenty-seven adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse participated in a pilot study comprising an 8-week mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction (MBSR) program and daily home practice of mindfulness skills. Three refresher classes were provided through final follow-up at 24 weeks. Assessments of depressive symptoms, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and mindfulness, were conducted at baseline, 4, 8, and 24 weeks. At 8 weeks, depressive symptoms were reduced by 65%. Statistically significant improvements were observed in all outcomes post-MBSR, with effect sizes above 1.0. Improvements were largely sustained until 24 weeks. Of three PTSD symptom criteria, symptoms of avoidance/numbing were most greatly reduced. Compliance to class attendance and home practice was high, with the intervention proving safe and acceptable to participants. These results warrant further investigation of the MBSR approach in a randomized, controlled trial in this patient population. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Clin Psychol 66: 1–18, 2010.
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Mindfulness training has had salutary effects with adult populations and it is seen as a potentially helpful to children’s development. How to implement mindfulness practices with young children is not yet clear; some meditation practices, like sitting still for long periods with internally-self-regulated focused attention, seem developmentally inappropriate. Montessori schooling is a 100-year-old system that naturally incorporates practices that align with mindfulness and are suited to very young children. Here I describe how several aspects of Montessori education, including privileging concentrated attention, attending to sensory experience, and engaging in practical work, parallel mindfulness practices. These aspects might be responsible for some of the socio-emotional and executive function benefits that have been associated with Montessori education, and they could be adapted to conventional classroom methods.
Children with ADHD are often non-compliant with parental instructions. Various methods have been used to reduce problem behaviors in these children, with medication and manipulation of behavioral contingencies being the most prevalent. An objection often raised by parents is that these management strategies require them to impose external control on the children which not only results in the children not learning self-control strategies, but also does not enhance positive interactions between them and their parents. Studies have shown that providing mindfulness training to parents, without a focus on reducing problem behaviors, can enhance positive interactions with their children and increase their satisfaction with parenting. We were interested to see what effects giving mindfulness training to two mothers, and subsequently to their children, would have on compliance by the children. Using a multiple baseline across mothers and children design, we found that giving a mother mindfulness training enhanced compliance by her child. When the children were subsequently given similar training, compliance increased even more markedly, and was maintained during follow-up. The mothers reported associated increases in satisfaction with the interactions with their children and happiness with parenting. We suspect that the mindfulness training produces personal transformations, both in parents and children, rather than teaching strategies for changing behavior.
Mindfulness interventions within adult populations are becoming increasingly popular. Research suggests that mindfulness can deliver lasting improvements in self-awareness and emotional stability to adults with severe and chronic conditions. As yet, research within child and adolescent populations is in its initial stages, although mindfulness shows great clinical promise for young people. This article aims to provide an overview of mindfulness to professionals who are working in child or adolescent settings. Initially, it will provide the reader with some orientation to and definitions from the field, before summarizing the current evidence for the utility of the approach. The article recommends specific clinical modifications for mindfulness with children and adolescents, as well as reviewing how to monitor and enhance the development of this skill. Finally, it highlights important differences among mindfulness, relaxation and other meditative techniques.
In light of a growing interest in contemplative practices such as meditation, the emerging field of contemplative science has been challenged to describe and objectively measure how these practices affect health and well-being. While “mindfulness” itself has been proposed as a measurable outcome of contemplative practices, this concept encompasses multiple components, some of which, as we review here, may be better characterized as equanimity. Equanimity can be defined as an even-minded mental state or dispositional tendency toward all experiences or objects, regardless of their origin or their affective valence (pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral). In this article, we propose that equanimity be used as an outcome measure in contemplative research. We first define and discuss the inter-relationship between mindfulness and equanimity from the perspectives of both classical Buddhism and modern psychology and present existing meditation techniques for cultivating equanimity. We then review psychological, physiological, and neuroimaging methods that have been used to assess equanimity either directly or indirectly. In conclusion, we propose that equanimity captures potentially the most important psychological element in the improvement of well-being, and therefore should be a focus in future research studies.
Positive affect elicited in a mother toward her newborn infant may be one of the most powerful and evolutionarily preserved forms of positive affect in the emotional landscape of human behavior. This study examined the neurobiology of this form of positive emotion and in so doing, sought to overcome the difficulty of eliciting robust positive affect in response to visual stimuli in the physiological laboratory. Six primiparous human mothers with no indications of postpartum depression brought their infants into the laboratory for a photo shoot. Approximately 6 weeks later, they viewed photographs of their infant, another infant, and adult faces during acquisition of functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI). Mothers exhibited bilateral activation of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) while viewing pictures of their own versus unfamiliar infants. While in the scanner, mothers rated their mood more positively for pictures of their own infants than for unfamiliar infants, adults, or at baseline. The orbitofrontal activation correlated positively with pleasant mood ratings. In contrast, areas of visual cortex that also discriminated between own and unfamiliar infants were unrelated to mood ratings. These data implicate the orbitofrontal cortex in a mother's affective responses to her infant, a form of positive emotion that has received scant attention in prior human neurobiological studies. Furthermore, individual variations in orbitofrontal activation to infant stimuli may reflect an important dimension of maternal attachment.
Parenting preschoolers can be a challenging endeavor. Yet anecdotal observations indicate that parents who are more mindful may have greater ease in contending with the emotional demands of parenting than parents who are less mindful. Therefore, we hypothesized that parenting effort, defined as the energy involved in deciding on the most effective way to respond to a preschooler, would be negatively associated with mothers’ mindfulness. In this study, a new parenting effort scale and an established mindfulness scale were distributed to 50 mothers of preschoolers. Using exploratory factor analysis, the factor structure of the new parenting effort scale was examined and the scale was refined. Bivariate correlations were then conducted on this new Parenting Effort—Preschool scale and the established mindfulness scale. Results confirmed the hypothesis that a negative correlation exists between these two variables. Implications are that mindfulness practices may have the potential to alleviate some of the challenges of parenting preschoolers.
The purpose of this study was to examine pathways in a model which proposed associations among parent mindfulness, parent depressive symptoms, two types of parenting, and child problem behavior. Participants' data were from the baseline assessment of a NIMH-sponsored family-group cognitive-behavioral intervention program for the prevention of child and adolescent depression (Compas et al., 2009). Participants consisted of 145 mothers and 17 fathers (mean age = 41.89 yrs, SD = 7.73) with a history of depression and 211 children (106 males) (mean age = 11.49 yrs, SD = 2.00). Analyses showed that (a) positive parenting appears to play a significant role in helping explain how parent depressive symptoms relate to child externalizing problems and (b) mindfulness is related to child internalizing and externalizing problems; however, the intervening constructs examined did not appear to help explain the mindfulness-child problem behavior associations. Suggestions for future research on parent mindfulness and child problem outcome are described.
Neuroimage phenotyping for psychiatric and neurological disorders is performed using voxelwise analyses also known as voxel based analyses or morphometry (VBM). A typical voxelwise analysis treats measurements at each voxel (e.g., fractional anisotropy, gray matter probability) as outcome measures to study the effects of possible explanatory variables (e.g., age, group) in a linear regression setting. Furthermore, each voxel is treated independently until the stage of correction for multiple comparisons. Recently, multi-voxel pattern analyses (MVPA), such as classification, have arisen as an alternative to VBM. The main advantage of MVPA over VBM is that the former employ multivariate methods which can account for interactions among voxels in identifying significant patterns. They also provide ways for computer-aided diagnosis and prognosis at individual subject level. However, compared to VBM, the results of MVPA are often more difficult to interpret and prone to arbitrary conclusions. In this paper, first we use penalized likelihood modeling to provide a unified framework for understanding both VBM and MVPA. We then utilize statistical learning theory to provide practical methods for interpreting the results of MVPA beyond commonly used performance metrics, such as leave-one-out-cross validation accuracy and area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve. Additionally, we demonstrate that there are challenges in MVPA when trying to obtain image phenotyping information in the form of statistical parametric maps (SPMs), which are commonly obtained from VBM, and provide a bootstrap strategy as a potential solution for generating SPMs using MVPA. This technique also allows us to maximize the use of available training data. We illustrate the empirical performance of the proposed framework using two different neuroimaging studies that pose different levels of challenge for classification using MVPA.