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In this commentary I discuss the integration of mindful procedures in cognitive therapy of generalized anxiety disorder (CAD) and attempt to answer questions concerning the effects of mindfulness on information processing and on mechanisms purported to maintain CAD in the meta-cognitive model of this disorder. Different techniques that promote mindfulness can be identified, including mindfulness meditation and attention training. These techniques are intended to disrupt repetitive styles of dysfunctional thinking. I argue that the effect of mindfulness strategies on information processing in emotional disorder can be conceptualized in meta-cognitive terms as (a) activating a meta-cognitive mode of processing; (b) disconnecting the influence of maladaptive beliefs on processing; (c) strengthening flexible responding to threat; and (d) strengthening meta-cognitive plans for controlling cognition. Although mindfulness meditation may have general treatment applications, the meta-cognitive model of CAD suggests caution in using this treatment in CAD. It is unclear which dimension of worry should be targeted, and mindfulness meditation does not contain information that can lead to unambiguous disconfirmation of erroneous beliefs about worry.

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.
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Although there are many imaging studies on traditional ROI-based amygdala volumetry, there are very few studies on modeling amygdala shape variations. This paper presents a unified computational and statistical framework for modeling amygdala shape variations in a clinical population. The weighted spherical harmonic representation is used to parameterize, smooth out, and normalize amygdala surfaces. The representation is subsequently used as an input for multivariate linear models accounting for nuisance covariates such as age and brain size difference using the SurfStat package that completely avoids the complexity of specifying design matrices. The methodology has been applied for quantifying abnormal local amygdala shape variations in 22 high functioning autistic subjects.
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Thirty years ago, grounded cognition had roots in philosophy, perception, cognitive linguistics, psycholinguistics, cognitive psychology, and cognitive neuropsychology. During the next 20 years, grounded cognition continued developing in these areas, and it also took new forms in robotics, cognitive ecology, cognitive neuroscience, and developmental psychology. In the past 10 years, research on grounded cognition has grown rapidly, especially in cognitive neuroscience, social neuroscience, cognitive psychology, social psychology, and developmental psychology. Currently, grounded cognition appears to be achieving increased acceptance throughout cognitive science, shifting from relatively minor status to increasing importance. Nevertheless, researchers wonder whether grounded mechanisms lie at the heart of the cognitive system or are peripheral to classic symbolic mechanisms. Although grounded cognition is currently dominated by demonstration experiments in the absence of well-developed theories, the area is likely to become increasingly theory driven over the next 30 years. Another likely development is the increased incorporation of grounding mechanisms into cognitive architectures and into accounts of classic cognitive phenomena. As this incorporation occurs, much functionality of these architectures and phenomena is likely to remain, along with many original mechanisms. Future theories of grounded cognition are likely to be heavily influenced by both cognitive neuroscience and social neuroscience, and also by developmental science and robotics. Aspects from the three major perspectives in cognitive science—classic symbolic architectures, statistical/dynamical systems, and grounded cognition—will probably be integrated increasingly in future theories, each capturing indispensable aspects of intelligence.
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BACKGROUND: Although it has been hypothesized that glucocorticoid hypersecretion in depressed patients leads to neuronal atrophy in the hippocampus, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) -based morphometry studies of the hippocampus to date have produced mixed results. METHODS: In our MRI study, hippocampal volumes were measured in 25 depressed patients (13 with melancholia and 12 without melancholia) and 15 control subjects. RESULTS: No significant differences in hippocampus volumes were found between any of the subject groups, although within subjects right hippocampal volumes were found to be significantly larger than left hippocampal volumes. Additionally, right and total (left + right) hippocampal volumes in control and depressed subjects were found to be positively correlated with trait anxiety as measured by the state/trait anxiety inventory. CONCLUSIONS: Because our subject group is younger than those in studies reporting hippocampal atrophy, we conclude that longitudinal studies will be necessary for investigation of the lifelong course of hippocampal volumetry.
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Cultivation of mindfulness, the nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment, produces beneficial effects on well-being and ameliorates psychiatric and stress-related symptoms. Mindfulness meditation has therefore increasingly been incorporated into psychotherapeutic interventions. Although the number of publications in the field has sharply increased over the last two decades, there is a paucity of theoretical reviews that integrate the existing literature into a comprehensive theoretical framework. In this article, we explore several components through which mindfulness meditation exerts its effects: (a) attention regulation, (b) body awareness, (c) emotion regulation (including reappraisal and exposure, extinction, and reconsolidation), and (d) change in perspective on the self. Recent empirical research, including practitioners’ self-reports and experimental data, provides evidence supporting these mechanisms. Functional and structural neuroimaging studies have begun to explore the neuroscientific processes underlying these components. Evidence suggests that mindfulness practice is associated with neuroplastic changes in the anterior cingulate cortex, insula, temporo-parietal junction, fronto-limbic network, and default mode network structures. The authors suggest that the mechanisms described here work synergistically, establishing a process of enhanced self-regulation. Differentiating between these components seems useful to guide future basic research and to specifically target areas of development in the treatment of psychological disorders.
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Neurosurgical treatment of psychiatric disorders has been influenced by evolving neurobiological models of symptom generation. The advent of functional neuroimaging and advances in the neurosciences have revolutionized understanding of the functional neuroanatomy of psychiatric disorders. This article reviews neuroimaging studies of depression from the last 3 decades and describes an emerging neurocircuitry model of mood disorders, focusing on critical circuits of cognition and emotion, particularly those networks involved in the regulation of evaluative, expressive and experiential aspects of emotion. The relevance of this model for neurotherapeutics is discussed, as well as the role of functional neuroimaging of psychiatric disorders.
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Successful human social interaction depends on our capacity to understand other people's mental states and to anticipate how they will react to our actions. Despite its importance to the human condition, the exact mechanisms underlying our ability to understand another's actions, feelings, and thoughts are still a matter of conjecture. Here, we consider this problem from philosophical, psychological, and neuroscientific perspectives. In a critical review, we demonstrate that attempts to draw parallels across these complementary disciplines is premature: The second-person perspective does not map directly to Interaction or Simulation theories, online social cognition, or shared neural network accounts underlying action observation or empathy. Nor does the third-person perspective map onto Theory-Theory (TT), offline social cognition, or the neural networks that support Theory of Mind (ToM). Moreover, we argue that important qualities of social interaction emerge through the reciprocal interplay of two independent agents whose unpredictable behavior requires that models of their partner's internal state be continually updated. This analysis draws attention to the need for paradigms in social neuroscience that allow two individuals to interact in a spontaneous and natural manner and to adapt their behavior and cognitions in a response contingent fashion due to the inherent unpredictability in another person's behavior. Even if such paradigms were implemented, it is possible that the specific neural correlates supporting such reciprocal interaction would not reflect computation unique to social interaction but rather the use of basic cognitive and emotional processes combined in a unique manner. Finally, we argue that given the crucial role of social interaction in human evolution, ontogeny, and every-day social life, a more theoretically and methodologically nuanced approach to the study of real social interaction will nevertheless help the field of social cognition to evolve.
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Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we examined whether individual differences in amygdala activation in response to negative relative to neutral information are related to differences in the speed with which such information is evaluated, the extent to which such differences are associated with medial prefrontal cortex function, and their relationship with measures of trait anxiety and psychological well-being (PWB). Results indicated that faster judgments of negative relative to neutral information were associated with increased left and right amygdala activation. In the prefrontal cortex, faster judgment time was associated with relative decreased activation in a cluster in the ventral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC, BA 24). Furthermore, people who were slower to evaluate negative versus neutral information reported higher PWB. Importantly, higher PWB was strongly associated with increased activation in the ventral ACC for negative relative to neutral information. Individual differences in trait anxiety did not predict variation in judgment time or in amygdala or ventral ACC activity. These findings suggest that people high in PWB effectively recruit the ventral ACC when confronted with potentially aversive stimuli, manifest reduced activity in subcortical regions such as the amygdala, and appraise such information as less salient as reflected in slower evaluative speed.
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Baseline resting electroencephalogram activity was recorded with 3 different reference montages from 15 clinically depressed and 13 control subjects. Power in all frequency bands was extracted by fast Fourier transformation. There was a significant Group X Hemisphere interaction in the mid-frontal region, for the alpha band power only. Depressed subjects had less left-sided activation (i.e., more alpha activity) than did normal control subjects. This pattern of diminished left-sided frontal activation is interpreted as indicating a deficit in approach mechanisms in depressed subjects.
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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.
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INTRODUCTION: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is characterized by cognitive biases in attention, memory and language use. Language use biases often parallel depression symptoms, and contain over-representations of both negative emotive and death words as well as low levels of positive emotive words. This study further explores cognitive biases in depression by comparing the effect of current depression status to cumulative depression history on an elaborated verbal recall of emotional photographs. METHODS: Following a negative mood induction, fifty-two individuals (42 women) with partially-remitted depression viewed - then recalled and verbally described - slides from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS). Descriptions were transcribed and frequency of depression-related word use (positive emotion, negative emotion, sex, ingestion and death) was analyzed using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count program (LIWC). RESULTS: Contrary to expectations and previous findings, current depression status did not affect word use in any categories of interest. However, individuals with more than 5 years of previous depression used fewer words related to positive emotion (t(50) = 2.10, p = .04, (d = 0.57)), and sex (t(48) = 2.50, p = .013 (d = 0.81)), and there was also a trend for these individuals to use fewer ingestion words (t(50) = 1.95, p = .057 (d = 0.58)), suggesting a deficit in appetitive processing. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that depression duration affects appetitive information processing and that appetitive word use may be a behavioral marker for duration related brain changes which may be used to inform treatment.
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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.
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Abstract The performance of concentrative and mindfulness meditators on a test of sustained attention (Wilkins' counting test) was compared with controls. Both groups of meditators demonstrated superior performance on the test of sustained attention in comparison with controls, and long-term meditators were superior to short-term meditators. Mindfulness meditators showed superior performance in comparison with concentrative meditators when the stimulus was unexpected but there was no difference between the two types of meditators when the stimulus was expected. The results are discussed in relation to the attentional mechanisms involved in the two types of meditation and implications drawn for mental health.

Meditation is now one of the most enduring, widespread, and researched of all psychotherapeutic methods. However, to date the meeting of the meditative disciplines and Western psychology has been marred by significant misunderstandings and by an assimilative integration in which much of the richness and uniqueness of meditation and its psychologies and philosophies have been overlooked. Also overlooked have been their major implications for an understanding of such central psychological issues as cognition and attention, mental training and development, health and pathology, and psychological capacities and potentials. Investigating meditative traditions with greater cultural and conceptual sensitivity opens the possibility of a mutual enrichment of both the meditative traditions and Western psychology, with far-reaching benefits for both.

Mindfulness training (MT) has been shown to lead to significant improvements in psychological distress and emotion regulation skills. The Internet has many advantages as a medium for building emotional skills in young people. The aim of this study was to involve young people in designing an online MT programme. A draft programme was initially designed based on a review of the literature and an established face-to-face programme for medical students. Twenty young people were then recruited through online advertising and 13 (age 16–26) interviewed. They were asked to comment on how useful, easy to use and enjoyable they found the proposed programme and how the draft version and its planned evaluation strategy could be improved. Interviewee responses were independently processed by two of the authors within a qualitative thematic analysis paradigm. The results showed that young people were eager to engage with the design of this health promotion programme and provided valuable input. All interviewees believed that young people would find the programme desirable. They provided a variety of suggestions about how training structure and content could be improved, how best it could be evaluated and how young people could be encouraged to engage with and complete the programme. It thus appears that online MT is a feasible mental health promotion strategy for young people and that it can be evaluated in a controlled trial. The result of this consultation process was the Mindful Awareness Training and Education (MATE) programme, which has been detailed.
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The capacity to stabilize the content of attention over time varies among individuals, and its impairment is a hallmark of several mental illnesses. Impairments in sustained attention in patients with attention disorders have been associated with increased trial-to-trial variability in reaction time and event-related potential deficits during attention tasks. At present, it is unclear whether the ability to sustain attention and its underlying brain circuitry are transformable through training. Here, we show, with dichotic listening task performance and electroencephalography, that training attention, as cultivated by meditation, can improve the ability to sustain attention. Three months of intensive meditation training reduced variability in attentional processing of target tones, as indicated by both enhanced theta-band phase consistency of oscillatory neural responses over anterior brain areas and reduced reaction time variability. Furthermore, those individuals who showed the greatest increase in neural response consistency showed the largest decrease in behavioral response variability. Notably, we also observed reduced variability in neural processing, in particular in low-frequency bands, regardless of whether the deviant tone was attended or unattended. Focused attention meditation may thus affect both distracter and target processing, perhaps by enhancing entrainment of neuronal oscillations to sensory input rhythms, a mechanism important for controlling the content of attention. These novel findings highlight the mechanisms underlying focused attention meditation and support the notion that mental training can significantly affect attention and brain function.
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Mindfulness-based approaches are increasingly employed as interventions for treating a variety of psychological, psychiatric and physical problems. Such approaches include ancient Buddhist mindfulness meditations such as Vipassana and Zen meditations, modern group-based standardized meditations, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and further psychological interventions, such as dialectical behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. We review commonalities and differences of these interventions regarding philosophical background, main techniques, aims, outcomes, neurobiology and psychological mechanisms. In sum, the currently applied mindfulness-based interventions show large differences in the way mindfulness is conceptualized and practiced. The decision to consider such practices as unitary or as distinct phenomena will probably influence the direction of future research. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Clin Psychol 67:1-21, 2011.

The high likelihood of recurrence in depression is linked to a progressive increase in emotional reactivity to stress (stress sensitization). Mindfulness-based therapies teach mindfulness skills designed to decrease emotional reactivity in the face of negative affect-producing stressors. The primary aim of the current study was to assess whether Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is efficacious in reducing emotional reactivity to social evaluative threat in a clinical sample with recurrent depression. A secondary aim was to assess whether improvement in emotional reactivity mediates improvements in depressive symptoms. Fifty-two individuals with partially remitted depression were randomized into an 8-week MBCT course or a waitlist control condition. All participants underwent the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) before and after the 8-week trial period. Emotional reactivity to stress was assessed with the Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory at several time points before, during, and after the stressor. MBCT was associated with decreased emotional reactivity to social stress, specifically during the recovery (post-stressor) phase of the TSST. Waitlist controls showed an increase in anticipatory (pre-stressor) anxiety that was absent in the MBCT group. Improvements in emotional reactivity partially mediated improvements in depressive symptoms. Limitations include small sample size, lack of objective or treatment adherence measures, and non-generalizability to more severely depressed populations. Given that emotional reactivity to stress is an important psychopathological process underlying the chronic and recurrent nature of depression, these findings suggest that mindfulness skills are important in adaptive emotion regulation when coping with stress.
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BACKGROUND: Many antidepressant medications (ADM) are associated with disruptions in sleep continuity that can compromise medication adherence and impede successful treatment. The present study investigated whether mindfulness meditation (MM) training could improve self-reported and objectively measured polysomnographic (PSG) sleep profiles in depressed individuals who had achieved at least partial remission with ADM, but still had residual sleep complaints. METHODS: Twenty-three ADM users with sleep complaints were randomized into an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) course or a waitlist control condition. Pre-post measurements included PSG sleep studies and subjectively reported sleep, residual depression symptoms. RESULTS: Compared to controls, the MBCT participants improved on both PSG and subjective measures of sleep. They showed a pattern of decreased wake time and increased sleep efficiency. Sleep depth, as measured by stage 1 and slow-wave sleep, did not change as a result of mindfulness training. CONCLUSIONS: MM is associated with increases in both objectively and subjectively measured sleep continuity in ADM users. MM training may serve as more desirable and cost-effective alternative to discontinuation or supplementation with hypnotics, and may contribute to a more sustainable recovery from depression.

BACKGROUND: Many antidepressant medications (ADM) are associated with disruptions in sleep continuity that can compromise medication adherence and impede successful treatment. The present study investigated whether mindfulness meditation (MM) training could improve self-reported and objectively measured polysomnographic (PSG) sleep profiles in depressed individuals who had achieved at least partial remission with ADM, but still had residual sleep complaints. METHODS: Twenty-three ADM users with sleep complaints were randomized into an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) course or a waitlist control condition. Pre-post measurements included PSG sleep studies and subjectively reported sleep, residual depression symptoms. RESULTS: Compared to controls, the MBCT participants improved on both PSG and subjective measures of sleep. They showed a pattern of decreased wake time and increased sleep efficiency. Sleep depth, as measured by stage 1 and slow-wave sleep, did not change as a result of mindfulness training. CONCLUSIONS: MM is associated with increases in both objectively and subjectively measured sleep continuity in ADM users. MM training may serve as more desirable and cost-effective alternative to discontinuation or supplementation with hypnotics, and may contribute to a more sustainable recovery from depression.
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Objective: Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a structured group program that employs mindfulness meditation to alleviate suffering associated with physical, psychosomatic and psychiatric disorders. The program, nonreligious and nonesoteric, is based upon a systematic procedure to develop enhanced awareness of moment-to-moment experience of perceptible mental processes. The approach assumes that greater awareness will provide more veridical perception, reduce negative affect and improve vitality and coping. In the last two decades, a number of research reports appeared that seem to support many of these claims. We performed a comprehensive review and meta-analysis of published and unpublished studies of health-related studies related to MBSR. Methods: Sixty-four empirical studies were found, but only 20 reports met criteria of acceptable quality or relevance to be included in the meta-analysis. Reports were excluded due to (I) insufficient information about interventions, (2) poor quantitative health evaluation, (3) inadequate statistical analysis, (4) mindfulness not being the central component of intervention, or (5) the setting of intervention or sample composition deviating too widely from the health-related MBSR program. Acceptable studies covered a wide spectrum of clinical populations (e.g., pain, cancer, heart disease, depression, and anxiety), as well as stressed nonclinical groups. Both controlled and observational investigations were included. Standardized measures of physical and mental well-being constituted the dependent variables of the analysis. Results: Overall, both controlled and uncontrolled studies showed similar effect sizes of approximately 0.5 (P <.0001) with homogeneity of distribution. Conclusion: Although derived from a relatively small number of studies, these results suggest that MBSR may help a broad range of individuals to cope with their clinical and nonclinical problems.

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