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BACKGROUND: Autism is a syndrome of unknown cause, marked by abnormal development of social behavior. Attempts to link pathological features of the amygdala, which plays a key role in emotional processing, to autism have shown little consensus. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate amygdala volume in individuals with autism spectrum disorders and its relationship to laboratory measures of social behavior to examine whether variations in amygdala structure relate to symptom severity. DESIGN: We conducted 2 cross-sectional studies of amygdala volume, measured blind to diagnosis on high-resolution, anatomical magnetic resonance images. Participants were 54 males aged 8 to 25 years, including 23 with autism and 5 with Asperger syndrome or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, recruited and evaluated at an academic center for developmental disabilities and 26 age- and sex-matched community volunteers. The Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised was used to confirm diagnoses and to validate relationships with laboratory measures of social function. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Amygdala volume, judgment of facial expressions, and eye tracking. RESULTS: In study 1, individuals with autism who had small amygdalae were slowest to distinguish emotional from neutral expressions (P=.02) and showed least fixation of eye regions (P=.04). These same individuals were most socially impaired in early childhood, as reported on the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (P<.04). Study 2 showed smaller amygdalae in individuals with autism than in control subjects (P=.03) and group differences in the relation between amygdala volume and age. Study 2 also replicated findings of more gaze avoidance and childhood impairment in participants with autism with the smallest amygdalae. Across the combined sample, severity of social deficits interacted with age to predict different patterns of amygdala development in autism (P=.047). CONCLUSIONS: These findings best support a model of amygdala hyperactivity that could explain most volumetric findings in autism. Further psychophysiological and histopathological studies are indicated to confirm these findings.
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This study describes the effects of an 8-week course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR; J. Kabat-Zinn, 1982, 1990) on affective symptoms (depression and anxiety), dysfunctional attitudes, and rumination. Given the focus of mindfulness meditation (MM) in modifying cognitive processes, it was hypothesized that the primary change in MM practice involves reductions in ruminative tendencies. We studied a sample of individuals with lifetime mood disorders who were assessed prior to and upon completion of an MBSR course. We also compared a waitlist sample matched with a subset of the MBSR completers. Overall, the results suggest that MM practice primarily leads to decreases in ruminative thinking, even after controlling for reductions in affective symptoms and dysfunctional beliefs.

Pregnancy is a time of wonder and of momentous change, both emotionally and physically. For many women, it is a time like no other in their lives, filled with excitement and awe but also with great uncertainty and vulnerability. This book-and-audio program brings together writings and simple daily practices for bringing the transformative power of mindfulness to this special time. The Mindful Way through Pregnancyfeatures: •    Yoga and meditation teacher Anne Cushman on finding balance amid the emotional ups and downs of pregnancy •    Author Celia Straus on bonding with your child during pregnancy •    Yoga teacher Jennifer Brilliant on caring for your changing body •    Meditation teacher Judith Lief on calming your fears about childbirth and parenthood •    Author Mimi Doe on setting your intentions for parenthood •    Zen teacher Karen Maezen Miller on mindfulness and the childbirth experience Also included is an audio CD of guided meditation instruction for four simple meditation practices for expectant mothers. Drawn from the Buddhist tradition, these practices offer different ways to develop a sense of calm well-being throughout pregnancy.

A fascinating cornucopia of new ideas, based on fundamentals of neurobiology, psychology, psychiatry and therapy, this book extends boundaries of current concepts of consciousness. Its eclectic mix will simulate and challenge not only neuroscientists and psychologists but entice others interested in exploring consciousness. Contributions from top researchers in consciousness and related fields project diverse ideas, focused mainly on conscious nonconscious interactions: 1. Paving the way for new research on basic scientific - physiological, pharmacological or neurochemical - mechanisms underpinning conscious experience ( bottom up approach); 2. Providing directions on how psychological processes are involved in consciousness ( top down approach); 3. Indicating how including consciousness could lead to new understanding of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, dementia, and addiction; 4. More provocatively, but still based on scientific evidence, exploring consciousness beyond conventional boundaries, indicating the potential for radical new thinking or quantum leaps in neuroscientific theories of consciousness. (Series B)
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Early childhood is marked by substantial development in the self-regulatory skills supporting school readiness and socioemotional competence. Evidence from developmental social cognitive neuroscience suggests that these skills develop as a function of changes in a dynamic interaction between more top-down (controlled) regulatory processes and more bottom-up (automatic) influences on behavior. Mindfulness training—using age-appropriate activities to exercise children's reflection on their moment-to-moment experiences—may support the development of self-regulation by targeting top-down processes while lessening bottom-up influences (such as anxiety, stress, curiosity) to create conditions conducive to reflection, both during problem solving and in more playful, exploratory ways.

Teasing requires the ability to understand intention, nonliteral communication, pretense, and social context. Children with autism experience difficulty with such skills, and consequently, are expected to have difficulty with teasing. To better understand teasing concepts and behaviors, children with autism, their parents, and age and Verbal-IQ-matched comparison children and parents described concepts and experiences of teasing and engaged in a parent–child teasing interaction. The teasing of children with autism was less playful and provocative and focused less on social norms than that of comparison children. Similarly, parents of children with autism teased in less playful ways. Scores on a theory of mind task accounted for several of the observed differences. Discussion focused on the importance of understanding social context and playful behavior during teasing.
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OBJECTIVES: Affective neuroscience research that investigates core symptoms of pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD) may be effective in differentiating PBD phenotypes. The current study used affect-modulated startle to examine potential differences in reactivity to emotional stimuli (reward and punishment) in narrow and broad phenotype PBD and controls. METHODS: Thirty children meeting DSM-IV bipolar disorder criteria (i.e. narrow phenotype PBD with defined manic episodes with elevated/expansive mood), 19 children meeting criteria for severe mood dysregulation (i.e. broad phenotype with chronic irritability, hyper-reactivity, and hyperarousal), and 19 controls completed a lottery startle paradigm involving reward (money) and punishment (loud noise). Startle probes were presented during anticipation of the emotional stimulus, immediately following the presentation of the stimulus, or during return to baseline following the stimulus. RESULTS: By self-report, patients and controls found the putative punishment to be preferable to the neutral condition. In the reward condition, patient samples reported greater arousal than did controls, but no between-group differences were found on the magnitude of startle response during the reward, punishment, or neutral conditions. CONCLUSIONS: The failure to find differences in affect-modulated startle between control children and those with narrow or broad PBD phenotypes speaks to the methodological challenges associated with studying reward mechanisms in PBD. Alternative paradigms that focus on different aspects of reward mechanisms are discussed.
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Bringing together leading scholars, scientists, and clinicians, this compelling volume explores how therapists can cultivate wisdom and compassion in themselves and their clients. Chapters describe how combining insights from ancient contemplative practices and modern research can enhance the treatment of anxiety, depression, trauma, substance abuse, suicidal behavior, couple conflict, and parenting stress. Seamlessly edited, the book features numerous practical exercises and rich clinical examples. It examines whether wisdom and compassion can be measured objectively, what they look like in t.