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This article presents an overview of the author's recent electrophysiological studies of anterior cerebral asymmetries related to emotion and affective style. A theoretical account is provided of the role of the two hemispheres in emotional processing. This account assigns a major role in approach- and withdrawal-related behavior to the left and right frontal and anterior temporal regions of two hemispheres, respectively. Individual differences in approach- and withdrawal-related emotional reactivity and temperament are associated with stable differences in baseline measures of activation asymmetry in these anterior regions. Phasic state changes in emotion result in shifts in anterior activation asymmetry which are superimposed upon these stable baseline differences. Future directions for research in this area are discussed.
Background and objectives. Cancer-related cognitive impairment has been acknowledged as a substantial limiting factor in quality of life among cancer patients and survivors. In addition to deficits on behavioral measures, abnormalities in neurologic structure and function have been reported. In this paper, we review findings from the literature on cognitive impairment and cancer, potential interventions, meditation and cognitive function, and meditation and cancer. In addition, we offer our hypotheses on how meditation practice may help to alleviate objective and subjective cognitive function, as well as the advantages of incorporating a meditation program into the treatment of cancer patients and survivors for cancer-related cognitive deficits. Findings. Various factors have been hypothesized to play a role in cancer-related cognitive impairment including chemotherapy, reduced hormone levels, proinflammatory immune response, fatigue, and distress. Pharmacotherapies such as methylphenidate or modafinil have been suggested to alleviate cognitive deficits. While initial reports suggest they are effective, some pharmacotherapies have side effects and may not relieve other symptoms associated with multimodal cancer treatment including sleep disturbance, nausea and pain. Several recent studies investigating the effects of meditation programs have reported behavioral and corresponding neurophysiological modulations that may be particularly effective in alleviating cancer-related cognitive impairment. Such programs also have been shown to reduce stress, fatigue, nausea and pain, and improve mood and sleep quality. Conclusions. With the increasing success of cancer treatment and the ability to return to previous family, social, and work activities, symptom management and quality of life are an essential part of survivorship. We propose that meditation may help to improve cancer-related cognitive dysfunction, alleviate other cancer-related sequelae, and should be fully investigated as an adjuvant to cancer treatment.
What is compassion? And how did it evolve? In this review, we integrate 3 evolutionary arguments that converge on the hypothesis that compassion evolved as a distinct affective experience whose primary function is to facilitate cooperation and protection of the weak and those who suffer. Our empirical review reveals compassion to have distinct appraisal processes attuned to undeserved suffering; distinct signaling behavior related to caregiving patterns of touch, posture, and vocalization; and a phenomenological experience and physiological response that orients the individual to social approach. This response profile of compassion differs from those of distress, sadness, and love, suggesting that compassion is indeed a distinct emotion. We conclude by considering how compassion shapes moral judgment and action, how it varies across different cultures, and how it may engage specific patterns of neural activation, as well as emerging directions of research.
Purpose Although quantitative benefits of mindfulness training have been demonstrated in youth, little is known about the processes involved. The aim of this study was to gain a detailed understanding of how young people engage with the ideas and practices known as mindfulness using qualitative enquiry. Methods Following completion of a six-week mindfulness training program with a nonclinical group of 11 young people (age 16–24), a focus group (N = 7) and open-ended interviews (n = 5) were held and audio-recorded. Qualitative data, collected at eight time points over three months from the commencement of training, were coded with the aid of computer software. Grounded theory methodology informed the data collection process and generation of themes and an explanatory model that captured participants' experiences. Results Participants described their daily lives as beset by frequent experiences of distress sometimes worsened by their unhelpful or destructive reactions. With mindfulness practice, they initially reported greater calm, balance, and control. Subsequently they commented on a clearer understanding of themselves and others. Mindfulness was then described as a “mindset” associated with greater confidence and competence and a lessened risk of future distress. Conclusions Participants demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of and engagement with mindfulness principles and practice. Their reported experience aligned well with qualitative research findings in adults and theoretical literature on mindfulness. An encouraging finding was that, with ongoing mindfulness practice and within a relatively short time, participants were able to move beyond improved emotion regulation and gain greater confidence in their ability to manage life challenges.
The Buddhist practice of mindfulness is being used more often both to help clients and to facilitate counselor effectiveness. A growing body of research supports these uses of mindfulness. Most authors also emphasize that those who teach mindfulness must also apply it themselves. However, little is known about how counselors and counselor educators incorporate mindfulness into their personal and professional lives. The current study used semistructured interviews to elicit such information from 6 counselors and counselor educators. A constant comparative method was used to analyze the data and synthesize themes. Emergent themes included practices used to cultivate mindfulness and the results of mindfulness practices.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is an 8-week training that is designed to teach participants mindful awareness of the present moment. In randomized clinical trials (RCTs), MBSR has demonstrated efficacy in various conditions including reducing chronic pain-related distress and improving quality of life in healthy individuals. There have, however, been no qualitative studies investigating participants' descriptions of changes experienced over multiple time points during the course of the programme. This qualitative study of an MBSR cohort (N = 8 healthy individuals) in a larger RCT examined participants' daily diary descriptions of their home-practice experiences. The study used a two-part method, combining grounded theory with a close-ended coding approach. The grounded theory analysis revealed that during the trial, all participants, to varying degrees, described moments of distress related to practice; at the end of the course, all participants who completed the training demonstrated greater detail and clarity in their descriptions, improved affect, and the emergence of an observing self. The closed-ended coding schema, carried out to shed light on the development of an observing self, revealed that the emergence of an observing self was not related to the valence of participants' experiential descriptions: even participants whose diaries contained predominantly negative characterizations of their experience throughout the trial were able, by the end of the trial, to demonstrate an observing, witnessing attitude towards their own distress. Progress in MBSR may rely less on the valence of participants' experiences and more on the way participants describe and relate to their own inner experience. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Key Practitioner Message: This article • Analyses the ways in which participants in a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) clinical trial describe their experiences with mindfulness practice. • Carries out qualitative analysis of the ways in which participants' descriptions of home-based meditation practice contained in their practice diaries change over the course of an 8-week MBSR trial. • Demonstrates that the participants who successfully completed the 8-week course show a common developmental trajectory, as each participant used less reactive, judgemental language to describe their home meditative practice-based experiences by the end of the trial, even when, in the case of some participants, that experience was perceived as negative or distressing. • Suggests that progress in MBSR may rely less on the valence of participants' experience and more on the way participants describe and relate to their own inner experience.
This commentary reflects on the articles in this Special Issue. The appearance of this group of articles underscores the important idea that a major target of mindfulness practice is on emotion. Transformation in trait affect is a key goal of all contemplative traditions. This commentary addresses several key methodological and conceptual issues in the empirical study of mindfulness. The many ways in which the term "mindfulness" is used in the articles in this Special Issue are noted, and they include its reference to states, traits, and independent variables that are manipulated in an experimental context. How the term "mindfulness" is conceptualized and operationalized is crucial, and for progress to be made it is essential that we qualify the use of this term by reference to how it is being operationalized in each context. Other methodological issues are considered, such as the duration of training and how it should be measured, and the nature of control and comparison groups in studies of mindfulness-based interventions. Finally, the commentary ends with a consideration of the targets within emotion processing that are likely to be impacted by mindfulness. This collection of articles underscores the substantial progress that has occurred in the empirical study of mindfulness and it is a harbinger of a very promising future in this area.
Few complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) institutions require their students to undergo substantive training in research literacy and conduct, and well-developed programs to train CAM institution faculty in research are virtually non-existent. As part of a National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) initiative to increase research capacity at CAM institutions, the New England School of Acupuncture (NESA), in collaboration with the Harvard Medical School (HMS) Osher Institute, was awarded a Developmental Center for Research on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (DCRC) grant. This article discusses a number of initiatives that we designed and implemented to train NESA students, faculty members, and alumni in the foundations of clinical research and to stimulate interest in both participating in research and receiving additional research training. Specific initiatives included a 30-hour faculty "Foundations of Research" course; a year-long course entitled, "How to Write a Publishable Case Report"; institution of a monthly research seminar series; revision of an already required student research course; and the addition of 2 new student-mentored independent research electives. We discuss successes and challenges encountered in developing and administering these initiatives and the overall impact they have had on research culture and productivity at NESA.
Little is known about placebo effects with scientific precision. Poor methodology has confounded our understanding of the magnitude and even the existence of the placebo effect. Investigating placebo effects presents special research challenges including: the design of appropriate controls for studying placebo effects including separating such effects from natural history and regression to the mean, the need for large sample sizes to capture expected small effects, and the need to understand such potential effects from a patient's perspective. This article summarizes the methodology of an ongoing NIH-funded randomized controlled trial aimed at investigating whether the placebo effect in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) exists and whether the magnitude of such an effect can be manipulated to vary in a manner analogous to “dose dependence.” The trial also uses an innovative combination of quantitative and qualitative methods.
OBJECTIVES: This study investigated the relationships between a mindfulness-based stress reduction meditation program for early stage breast and prostate cancer patients and quality of life, mood states, stress symptoms, lymphocyte counts, and cytokine production. METHODS: Forty-nine patients with breast cancer and 10 with prostate cancer participated in an 8-week MBSR program that incorporated relaxation, meditation, gentle yoga, and daily home practice. Demographic and health behavior variables, quality of life (EORTC QLQ C-30), mood (POMS), stress (SOSI), and counts of NK, NKT, B, T total, T helper, and T cytotoxic cells, as well as NK and T cell production of TNF, IFN-γ, IL-4, and IL-10 were assessed pre- and postintervention. RESULTS: Fifty-nine and 42 patients were assessed pre- and postintervention, respectively. Significant improvements were seen in overall quality of life, symptoms of stress, and sleep quality. Although there were no significant changes in the overall number of lymphocytes or cell subsets, T cell production of IL-4 increased and IFN-γ decreased, whereas NK cell production of IL-10 decreased. These results are consistent with a shift in immune profile from one associated with depressive symptoms to a more normal profile. CONCLUSIONS: MBSR participation was associated with enhanced quality of life and decreased stress symptoms in breast and prostate cancer patients. This study is also the first to show changes in cancer-related cytokine production associated with program participation.
This position paper advocates for early childhood teachers and parents to regularly use of mindfulness practices themselves and with very young children. An understanding of 'mindfulness' is important because it can provide ways to support children during their sensitive years and sow seeds of kindness, tolerance and peace in our fast paced, competitive, consumerist culture. In addition, in times of trauma, mindfulness techniques offer teachers and parents ways to calm themselves and the children close to them. The value of using mindfulness techniques with children and for demonstrating mindfulness as adults is well supported by research (McCown, Reibel and Micozzi, 2010; Saltzman and Goldin, 2008).
A review of behavioral and neurobiological data on mood and mood regulation as they pertain to an understanding of mood disorders is presented. Four approaches are considered: 1) behavioral and cognitive; 2) neurobiological; 3) computational; and 4) developmental. Within each of these four sections, we summarize the current status of the field and present our vision for the future, including particular challenges and opportunities. We conclude with a series of specific recommendations for National Institute of Mental Health priorities. Recommendations are presented for the behavioral domain, the neural domain, the domain of behavioral-neural interaction, for training, and for dissemination. It is in the domain of behavioral-neural interaction, in particular, that new research is required that brings together traditions that have developed relatively independently. Training interdisciplinary clinical scientists who meaningfully draw upon both behavioral and neuroscientific literatures and methods is critically required for the realization of these goals.
OBJECTIVE: Positron emission tomography was used to investigate the neural substrates of normal human emotional and their dependence on the types of emotional stimulus. METHOD: Twelve healthy female subjects underwent 12 measurements of regional brain activity following the intravenous bolus administration of [15O]H2O as they alternated between emotion-generating and control film and recall tasks. Automated image analysis techniques were used to characterize and compare the increases in regional brain activity associated with the emotional response to complex visual (film) and cognitive (recall) stimuli. RESULTS: Film- and recall-generated emotion were each associated with significantly increased activity in the vicinity of the medial prefrontal cortex and thalamus, suggesting that these regions participate in aspects of emotion that do not depend on the nature of the emotional stimulus. Film-generated emotion was associated with significantly greater increases in activity bilaterally in the occipitotemporparietal cortex, lateral cerebellum, hypothalamus, and a region that includes the anterior temporal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampal formation, suggesting that these regions participate in the emotional response to certain exteroceptive sensory stimuli. Recall-generated sadness was associated with significantly greater increases in activity in the vicinity of the anterior insular cortex, suggesting that this region participates in the emotional response to potentially distressing cognitive or interoceptive sensory stimuli. CONCLUSIONS: While this study should be considered preliminary, it identified brain regions that participate in externally and internally generated human emotion.
This special issue focuses on new developments that make up the expanding envelope of mindfulness-based psychological research. Briefly, the articles in this issue include the description and validation of a trait version of the Toronto Mindfulness Scale, an exploration of the mechanisms underlying the association between increased mindfulness and psychological adjustment, an investigation of whether practicing mindfulness between sessions contributes to symptom improvement, a study of the neural mechanisms underlying increased mindfulness in social anxiety disorder (SAD), and finally an evaluation of whether attachment style moderates participant response to mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). The articles in this current special issue provide examples of recent areas of investigation in the pursuit of better understanding the growing clinical application of mindfulness-based interventions in Western health care. Potentially, these ongoing efforts will further improve the effectiveness of these treatments to reduce suffering.
Interest in mindfulness as a tool to improve health and well-being has increased rapidly over the past two decades. Limited qualitative research has been conducted on mindfulness and health. This study utilized in-depth interviews to explore the context, perceptions, and experiences of a sub-set of participants engaged in an acceptability study of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) among urban youth. Content analysis revealed that all in-depth interview participants reported experiencing some form of positive benefit and enhanced self-awareness as a result of MBSR program participation. Significant variation in the types and intensity of changes occurring was identified, ranging from a reframing and reduction of daily stressors to transformational shifts in life orientation and well-being. Variations in perceptions of and experiences with mindfulness should be studied in further depth in the context of prospective intervention research, including their potentially differential influence on mental and physical health outcomes.
Evidence that placebo acupuncture is an effective treatment for chronic pain presents a puzzle: how do placebo needles appearing to patients to penetrate the body, but instead sitting on the skin’s surface in the manner of a tactile stimulus, evoke a healing response? Previous accounts of ritual touch healing in which patients often described enhanced touch sensations (including warmth, tingling or flowing sensations) suggest an embodied healing mechanism. In this qualitative study, we asked a subset of patients in a singleblind randomized trial in irritable bowel syndrome to describe their treatment experiences while undergoing placebo treament. Analysis focused on patients’ unprompted descriptions of any enhanced touch sensations (e.g., warmth, tingling) and any significance patients assigned to the sensations. We found in 5/6 cases, patients associated sensations including “warmth” and “tingling” with treatment efficacy. The conclusion offers a “neurophenomenological” account of the placebo effect by considering dynamic effects of attentional filtering on early sensory cortices, possibly underlying the phenomenology of placebo acupuncture.
BACKGROUND: Despite the apparent high placebo response rate in randomized placebo-controlled trials (RCT) of patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), little is known about the variability and predictors of this response. OBJECTIVES: To describe the magnitude of response in placebo arms of IBS clinical trials and to identify which factors predict the variability of the placebo response. METHODS: We performed a meta-analysis of published, English language, RCT with 20 or more IBS patients who were treated for at least 2 weeks. This analysis is limited to studies that assessed global response (improvement in overall symptoms). The variables considered as potential placebo modifiers were study design, study duration, use of a run-in phase, Jadad score, entry criteria, number of office visits, number of office visits/study duration, use of diagnostic testing, gender, age and type of medication studied. FINDINGS: Forty-five placebo-controlled RCTs met the inclusion criteria. The placebo response ranged from 16.0 to 71.4% with a population-weighted average of 40.2%, 95% CI (35.9-44.4). Significant associations with lower placebo response rates were fulfillment of the Rome criteria for study entry (P=0.049) and an increased number of office visits (P=0.026). CONCLUSIONS: Placebo effects in IBS clinical trials measuring a global outcome are highly variable. Entry criteria and number of office visits are significant predictors of the placebo response. More stringent entry criteria and an increased number of office visits appear to independently decrease the placebo response.
Psychotherapeutic interventions containing training in mindfulness meditation have been shown to help participants with a variety of somatic and psychological conditions. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a meditation-based psychotherapeutic intervention designed to help reduce the risk of relapse of recurrent depression. There is encouraging early evidence from multi-centre randomized controlled trials. However, little is known of the process by which MBCT may bring therapeutic benefits. This study set out to explore participants' accounts of MBCT in the mental-health context. Seven participants were interviewed in two phases. Interview data from four participants were obtained in the weeks following MBCT. Grounded theory techniques were used to identify several categories that combine to describe the ways in which mental-health difficulties arose as well as their experiences of MBCT. Three further participants who have continued to practise MBCT were interviewed so as to further validate, elucidate and extend these categories. The theory suggested that the preconceptions and expectations of therapy are important influences on later experiences of MBCT. Important areas of therapeutic change ('coming to terms') were identified, including the development of mindfulness skills, an attitude of acceptance and 'living in the moment'. The development of mindfulness skills was seen to hold a key role in the development of change. Generalization of these skills to everyday life was seen as important, and several ways in which this happened, including the use of breathing spaces, were discussed. The study emphasized the role of continued skills practice for participants' therapeutic gains. In addition, several of the concepts and categories offered support to cognitive accounts of mood disorder and the role of MBCT in reducing relapse.