Priming Improves the Effectiveness of Mindfulness to Reduce Stress and Improve Attention

Priming Improves the Effectiveness of Mindfulness to Reduce Stress and Improve Attention

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

One of the primary effects of mindfulness training is an improvement in the ability to pay attention to the task at hand and ignore interfering stimuli. This is an important consequence of mindfulness training and produces improvements in thinking, reasoning, and creativity. The importance of heightened attentional ability to the individual’s ability to navigate the demands of complex modern life cannot be overstated. It helps in school, at work, in relationships, or simply driving a car.  Priming occurs when information about a stimulus is presented beforehand. It is not known if priming regarding mindfulness will enhance its effectiveness.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Effect of a Brief Mindfulness Practice on Perceived Stress and Sustained Attention: Does Priming Matter?” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9167905/) Ueberholz and Fiocco

Recruited undergraduate students for an online experiment. They were randomly assigned to either prime pus 10-minute meditation, 10-minute meditation only, or prime only conditions. The prime consisted of a mindfulness infographic including information on mindfulness, brain changes with mindfulness, and behavioral changes with mindfulness. The 10-minute audio guided meditation consisted in breath following and body scan meditations. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness, perceived stress, and sustained attention with a go/no go task.

 

They found that after training both the primed and no-prime meditation groups had significantly lower levels of perceived stress and fewer omission errors than the prime only group. On the other hand only the primed group had improved sustained attention as measured by commission errors and correct responses.

 

The results suggest that as seen in many studies meditation practice reduces perceived stress and improves attention. The results also suggest that priming with mindfulness information prior to meditation increases the impact of meditation on sustained attention.

 

So, potentiate the effects of meditation with priming.

 

Research indicates mindfulness and meditation can help us allocate cognitive resources more efficiently. Sustained attention in particular appears to be enhanced in those who practice.” – William Stafford

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Ueberholz, R. Y., & Fiocco, A. J. (2022). The Effect of a Brief Mindfulness Practice on Perceived Stress and Sustained Attention: Does Priming Matter?. Mindfulness, 1–12. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-022-01913-8

 

Abstract

Objectives

The objective of the current study was to investigate the effect of a brief mindfulness practice on perceived stress and sustained attention, and to determine whether priming the benefits of mindfulness meditation enhances this effect.

Methods

Two hundred and twenty undergraduate students were randomly assigned to a control condition (CC), a meditation condition (MC), or a priming + meditation condition (PMC). Baseline and post-treatment measures included subjective stress ratings on a visual analog scale (VAS) and performance on a Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART), determined by reaction time coefficient of variability (RTCV) and three measures of accuracy: correct responses, errors of commission, and errors of omission.

Results

Repeated measures analyses revealed that both the MC and the PMC displayed a decline in perceived stress relative to the CC. Analyses further revelated that the MC and PMC displayed fewer errors of omission relative to the CC. However, only the PMC displayed better performance relative to the CC with respect to total correct response and errors of commission. There were no significant between-group differences for RTCV.

Conclusions

These findings are novel and provide a foundation to further investigate the effect of priming on mindfulness engagement and its potential benefits.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9167905/

Meditation and Mind Wandering Alter Brain Network Activity Differently

Meditation and Mind Wandering Alter Brain Network Activity Differently

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“in addition to altering specific functional connectivity, meditation leads to reconfiguration of whole-brain network architecture.” – Shogo Kajimura

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that meditation practice has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. One way that meditation practices may produce these benefits is by altering the brain. The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity. Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread areas. In other words, meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain structures and connectivity, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits, especially mindfulness.

 

Meditation practice results in a shift in mental processing. It produces a reduction of mind wandering and self-referential thinking and an increase in attention and higher-level thinking. The neural system that underlie mind wandering is termed the Default Mode Network (DMN) and consists in a set of brain structures including medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate, lateral temporal cortex and the hippocampus. The neural system that underlies executive functions such as attention and higher-level thinking is termed the Central Executive Network (CEN) and includes the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, posterior parietal cortex, and cingulate cortex. The salience network has been shown to direct attention to significant aspects of the environment. Hence the shift in thought process may well be associated with changes in the relationship of these systems.

 

In today’s Research News article “Spectral dynamic causal modeling of mindfulness, mind-wandering, and resting-state in the triple network using fMRI.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8893127/ ) Kim and colleagues recruited healthy adult males and had them pay attention mindfully or allow their minds to wander while having their brains scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).

 

They found that during mindfulness the central executive network had enhanced connectivity with the salience network through the default mode network. On the other hand, during mind wandering the default mode network had greater connectivity to the central executive network. This suggests that during mindfulness the neural systems enhanced attention to significant stimuli while during mind wandering the neural systems enhanced attention to internally generated thinking.

 

Hence, the brain’s network activity is different during different mind states.

 

meditation states in long-term practitioners induced highly specific connectivity patterns of fronto-parietal and medial frontal networks relative to rest. This observation generally indicates that the executive processes of attentional control and cognitive monitoring have a specific role in supporting brain states of meditation.” – Juliana Yordanova

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Kim, H. C., & Lee, J. H. (2022). Spectral dynamic causal modeling of mindfulness, mind-wandering, and resting-state in the triple network using fMRI. Neuroreport, 33(5), 221–226. https://doi.org/10.1097/WNR.0000000000001772

 

Objective

Functional connectivity in intrinsic brain networks, namely, the triple network, which includes the salience network, default mode network (DMN) and central executive network (CEN), has been suggested as prominent, major networks involved in human cognition and mental state–mindfulness, mind-wandering and resting-state. Despite the established roles of functional connections within and between intrinsic networks, there has been limited research on the effective connectivity of mindfulness, mind-wandering and resting-state using the triple network, as well as on their direct comparisons.

Methods

We employed spectral dynamic causal modeling to compare effective connectivity patterns across mindfulness (i.e. attention focused on physical sensations of breathing), mind-wandering (i.e. connecting thoughts) and resting-state (i.e. relaxing while remaining calm and awake) conditions using functional MRI data of healthy subjects who underwent ambulatory training by practicing mindfulness and mind-wandering (N = 59).

Results

When comparing mindfulness and mindwandering conditions, our analysis results revealed that salience network and CEN interacted depending on mindfulness or mind-wandering. When mindfulness or mind-wandering was compared to resting-state, mindfulness increased the effective connectivity from the left CEN to salience network through DMN, whereas mindwandering increased the effective connectivity from the DMN to right CEN.

Conclusion

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to examine possible differences in effective connectivity patterns among mindfulness, mind-wandering and resting-state using the triple network. We believe that our findings will provide deeper insights into the neural substrates of mindfulness compared to mind-wandering and resting-state.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8893127/

 

Alter Memory Processes with Mindfulness

Alter Memory Processes with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness training can improve working memory by overcoming proactive interference, which occurs when old information prevents the recall of new information.” – Sara Lazar

 

Humans have both an amazing capacity to remember. Our long-term store of information is virtually unlimited. Often the problem is retrieving that information when needed. Memory ability is so important to everyday human functioning that it is important to study ways to maintain or improve it. Mindfulness has been shown to improve working memory capacity.. But little is known about the components of memory that are affected by mindfulness training.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and false memories: state and dispositional mindfulness does not increase false memories for naturalistic scenes presented in a virtual environment.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8885469/ ) Ayache and colleagues recruited college students and randomly assigned them to a mindfulness condition or a control condition. They were measured for mindfulness, depression, mood, and cognitive flexibility. The participants listened to a 15-minute audio instruction on mindfulness or a philosophical tale. Afterward they completed scales measuring sleepiness, mind wandering, focused attention, internal absorption, body awareness, and external absorption. They then completed a memory task involving watching a virtual scene with many elements including animals, fruits, vegetables, musical instruments, furniture, clothes, and tools. They were then presented with a number of items some of which were included in the scene and some that were not and asked to indicate whether they had seen them in the scene.

 

They found that in comparison to the control condition after mindfulness induction the participants had significantly higher levels of body awareness, focused attention, and sleepiness. The mindfulness group also had significant increases in memory sensitivity. Also, mindfulness non-reactivity levels were associated with better overall recall rates while acting with awareness was associated with false recognitions.

 

The findings are complex but suggest that brief mindfulness inductions can affect memory processes. To disentangle the various components more research is warranted.

 

When you try to learn something new, it’s difficult to do it because you have all these past memories that interfere. It makes a lot of sense that mindfulness might improve that, because the tendency to attend to the present moment is a core concept of mindfulness.” – Jonathan Greenberg

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Ayache, J., Abichou, K., La Corte, V., Piolino, P., & Sperduti, M. (2022). Mindfulness and false memories: state and dispositional mindfulness does not increase false memories for naturalistic scenes presented in a virtual environment. Psychological research, 86(2), 571–584. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-021-01504-7

 

Abstract

Mindfulness attracted increased research interests in the last decade, reporting an overall beneficial effect of this practice on cognitive performances. Nevertheless, recently a possible detrimental impact of mindfulness has been underlined. While the effect of mindfulness on memory remains under-explored, recent studies have observed an increased false-memory susceptibility after mindfulness practice. A possible explanatory mechanism has been suggested, related to the nature of the studied material. For semantically related information, mindfulness would increase false memories; however, the addition of rich perceptual information could prevent this detrimental effect. The present study aimed to verify this hypothesis by testing the impact of state mindfulness induced by a short meditation session, and dispositional mindfulness on the production of false memory for pictorial material presented in a complex virtual environment. We employed a virtual reality version of the Deese–Roediger–McDermott paradigm (DRM), a classical protocol to induce false memories. Contrary to previous studies, we did not observe any effect of mindfulness on false or correct memories (free recall and recognition) after a short mindfulness practice session compared to a control condition. Nonetheless, we found a beneficial effect of mindfulness practice on memory sensitivity. Additionally, we reported a positive and negative effect of dispositional mindfulness on memory outcomes. While the Non-Reactivity facet was associated with overall better memory performances, we observed an association between the Acting with Awareness facet and an increased recollection of lures. We discuss these findings in line with a recent proposal on the link between mindfulness and episodic memory.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8885469/

 

Improve Psychological Well-Being of Elementary School Children with Mindfulness

Improve Psychological Well-Being of Elementary School Children with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“engaging in mindfulness meditation cultivates our ability to both focus and broaden our attention, which is a practical way to elicit psychological well-being.” – Jennifer Wolkin

 

Childhood is a miraculous period during which the child is dynamically absorbing information from every aspect of its environment. This is particularly evident during the elementary school years. Mindfulness training in school has been shown to have very positive effects. These include improvements in the cognitive, psychological, emotional and social domains. It is important to teach skills that improve well-being early in life. This can affect individuals throughout their lives. So, there is a need to further study the ability of mindfulness training to improve the well-being of elementary school students.

 

In today’s Research News article “Randomized Trial on the Effects of a Mindfulness Intervention on Temperament, Anxiety, and Depression: A Multi-Arm Psychometric Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8945710/ ) Poli and colleagues recruited 5th grade students. They were measured before and after either 8 weeks of mindfulness training or no treatment for anxiety depression, and temperament.

 

They found that mindfulness training reduced anxiety levels and inhibition to novelty and increased attention, social orientation, positive emotionality. These results suggest that mindfulness training improves the psychological well-being of elementary school children.

 

Mindfulness improves the well-being of kids.

 

mental wellbeing does not mean being happy all the time and it does not mean you won’t experience negative or painful emotions, such as grief, loss, or failure, which are a part of normal life. However, whatever your age, mindfulness can help you lead a mentally healthier life and improve your wellbeing.” – Mental Health Foundation

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Poli, A., Maremmani, A., Gemignani, A., & Miccoli, M. (2022). Randomized Trial on the Effects of a Mindfulness Intervention on Temperament, Anxiety, and Depression: A Multi-Arm Psychometric Study. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 12(3), 74. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs12030074

 

Abstract

Mindfulness is a mental state that can be achieved through meditation. So far, studies have shown that practicing mindfulness on a consistent and regular basis can improve attentional functions and emotional well-being. Mindfulness has recently begun to be used in the field of child development. The goal of this study is to assess if a mindfulness program may help primary school students in reducing anxiety and depression while also improving their temperamental characteristics. This multi-arm pre-post study included 41 subjects recruited in the fifth year of two primary school classes. Participants were randomly assigned to the experimental and control groups. The experimental group, but not the control group, underwent an eight-week mindfulness training. Every week, the program included 60-min group sessions. QUIT (Italian Questionnaires of Temperament) and TAD (Test for Anxiety and Depression in Childhood and Adolescence) were used to assess temperament, and anxiety and depression, respectively. Both groups were administered both instruments before and after mindfulness intervention. The mindfulness program lowered anxiety levels and was effective in changing temperament dimensions: there was an increase in social orientation (SO), positive emotionality (PE), and attention (AT), as well as a decrease in inhibition to novelty (IN) and negative emotionality. Path analysis revealed that AT may promote the improvement of both SO and IN. Similarly, PE may be promoted by the decrease of IN. Clinical implications are discussed.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8945710/

 

Improve Working Memory with Yogic Visual Concentration

Improve Working Memory with Yogic Visual Concentration

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika defines trataka as “looking intently with an unwavering gaze at a small point until tears are shed.” This simple technique has a purifying, invigorating effect on the mind and improves concentration, paving the way for a deeper meditation practice. “ – Natalya Podgorny

 

Yoga practice has been shown to have a myriad of benefits for psychological and physical health, social, and spiritual well-being. It is both an exercise and a mind-body practice those stresses both mental attention to present moment movements, breath control, and flexibility, range of motion, and balance. There has, however, not been much attention paid to the characteristics of practice that are important for producing maximum benefits. One little researched component of some yoga practices is yogic visual concentration.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Trataka (Yogic Visual Concentration) on the Performance in the Corsi-Block Tapping Task: A Repeated Measures Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.773049/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1796285_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20211223_arts_A ) Swathi and colleagues recruited healthy university students and trained them for 20 minutes per day for 6 weeks on the yogic visual concentration technique of Trataka and also eye exercise training. Trataka involved eye exercises, viewing a candle in a dark room, and visualizing the candle flame. Eye exercises involved exercising eye movement in all planes. Training was followed by one week of no training. They then alternated practicing eye exercises or Trataka for 4 days. After the practices they were measured for memory processes with the Corsi Block Tapping task.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the eye exercise condition, after practicing yogic visual concentration (Trataka) there was significant improvements in memory, including working memory, spatial memory, and spatial attention. Using eye exercises as a comparison (control) condition reduces many possible confounding explanations and is a strength of the study, strengthening the conclusion that yogic visual concentration results in improvement of short-term nenory.

 

Mindfulness practices, including yoga, contain a number of components including practicing concentration. These practices are also known to improve memory. The present results suggest that the concentration practice is sufficient to produce improvements in short-term (working) memory. This makes sense as a prerequisite of memory is obtaining the information in the first place without interference, and this would be improved by learning to concentrate better on the task at hand.

 

So, improve working memory with yogic visual concentration.

 

The purpose of concentration techniques is to discover how to focus the mind on one point for a sustained duration. . . With dedicated practice, concentration techniques can help prevent memory loss, create clarity of thought, and promote everyday mindfulness.” – Timothy Burgin

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Swathi PS, Bhat R and Saoji AA (2021) Effect of Trataka (Yogic Visual Concentration) on the Performance in the Corsi-Block Tapping Task: A Repeated Measures Study. Front. Psychol. 12:773049. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.773049

 

Background and Objective: Attention and memory are essential aspects of cognitive health. Yogasanas, pranayama, and meditation have shown to improve cognitive functions. There has been no assessment of Trataka (yogic visual concentration) on working or on spatial memory. The present study was planned to assess the immediate effects of Trataka and of eye exercise sessions on the Corsi-block tapping task (CBTT).

Methods: A total of 41 healthy volunteers of both genders with age 23.21 ± 2.81 years were recruited. All participants underwent baseline assessment, followed by 2 weeks of training in Trataka (including eye exercise). Each training session lasted for 20 min/day for 6 days a week. After completion of the training period, a 1-week washout period was given. Each participant then was assessed in two sessions in Trataka and in eye exercise on two separate days, maintaining the same time of the day. Repeated measure analysis of variance with Holm’s adjustment was performed to check the difference between the sessions.

Results: Significant within-subjects effects were observed for forward Corsi span andforward total score (p < 0.001), and also for backward Corsi span (p < 0.05) and backward total score (p < 0.05). Post hoc analyses revealed Trataka session to be better than eye exercises and baseline. The eye exercise session did not show any significant changes in the CBTT.

Conclusion: The result suggests that Trataka session improves working memory, spatial memory, and spatial attention.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.773049/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1796285_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20211223_arts_A

 

Improved Psychological Well-Being and Cognition is Reported by Adult who Engage in Microdosing of Psychedelic Substances

Improved Psychological Well-Being and Cognition is Reported by Adult who Engage in Microdosing of Psychedelic Substances

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“After a 40-year moratorium, the psychedelic renaissance has begun: rigorous scientific methods can now be used to investigate psychedelics as potential medicines and for “the betterment of well people”. – Thomas Anderson

 

Psychedelic substances such as peyote, mescaline, LSD, Bufotoxin, ayahuasca and psilocybin 

have been used almost since the beginning of recorded history to alter consciousness and produce spiritually meaningful experiences. More recently hallucinogenic drugs such as MDMA (Ecstasy) and Ketamine have been similarly used. People find the experiences produced by these substances extremely pleasant. eye opening, and even transformative. They often report that the experiences changed them forever. Psychedelics and hallucinogens have also been found to be clinically useful as they markedly improve mood, increase energy and enthusiasm and greatly improve clinical depression.

 

Recently doses of psychedelic substances that are small enough that they do not produce psychedelic effects (microdoses) have been employed repeatedly in real world settings. They have been reported to produce reductions in the symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve cognitive function, and promote social interaction. But there is little systematic research on the effects of repeated psychedelic microdosing.

 

In today’s Research News article “Psychedelic Microdosing: Prevalence and Subjective Effects.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7282936/ ) Cameron and colleagues recruited adult volunteers to complete an anonymous online survey of “Recreational Drug and Alcohol Use”. The survey requested information regarding familiarity with psychedelic microdosing. personal practices, drugs used, and any changes observed in depression, anxiety, memory, sociability, focus/attention, and physical health.

 

They found that of the 2347 respondents the majority (59%) were familiar with psychedelic microdosing but only 13 % ever practiced it and only 4% were currently practicing. LSD and Psilocybin were the most common drugs used in microdosing. Males, veterans, and less educated participants were significantly more likely to practice psychedelic microdosing.

 

In comparison to participants who did not microdose, those that did reported significantly greater reductions in depression anxiety and greater improvements in memory, attention, and sociability. Males again reported the greatest improvements. The majority of the participants who stopped microdosing attributed it to difficulty in obtaining the drugs and their legal riskiness.

 

These results were produced by an anonymous survey and there was no way to ascertain the veracity of the responses. In addition, there were no comparison to other spontaneously used drugs to determine demand characteristics or placebo effects. Hence, the results are from a self-selected sample, have strong expectancy effect, and with no objective verification of the responses. So, these results must be viewed as preliminary. Nevertheless, the findings suggest that psychedelic microdosing is viewed by those engaging in it as beneficial for their psychological well-being and cognitive ability. These are interesting results that suggest that further investigation in warranted to determine if this practicemay be useful in improving well-being.

 

So, improved psychological well-being and cognition is reported by adult who engage in microdosing of psychedelic substances.

 

We have an epidemic of mental health problems, with existing treatments that don’t work for everyone. We need to follow the lead of patients who are taking these initiatives to improve their wellbeing and reduce suffering.” – Zach Walsh

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Cameron, L. P., Nazarian, A., & Olson, D. E. (2020). Psychedelic Microdosing: Prevalence and Subjective Effects. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 52(2), 113–122. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2020.1718250

 

Abstract

Anecdotal reports suggest that the administration of sub-hallucinogenic doses of psychedelic compounds on a chronic, intermittent schedule—a practice known as psychedelic microdosing—is becoming increasingly popular among young adults due to its purported ability to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety while improving cognitive function and promoting social interaction. Using an anonymous online survey, we collected data from 2347 people to 1) assess the prevalence of psychedelic microdosing and characterize the demographics of microdosers, 2) determine whether microdosers associate the practice with changes in mood, cognitive function, social interaction, or physiology, and 3) investigate frequent motives for discontinuing the practice. Fifty-nine percent of respondents (NT = 2183) reported familiarity with the concept of psychedelic microdosing, with 17% (383 respondents, NT=2200) having engaged in this practice. Microdosers attributed psychedelic microdosing with improving their mood, decreasing their anxiety, and enhancing their memory, attention, and sociability. The most frequently cited reasons for quitting microdosing (NT = 243) were the risks associated with taking an illegal substance (24.28%) and the difficulty of obtaining psychedelic compounds (22.63%). Overall, our findings suggest that psychedelic microdosing is relatively common and is subjectively associated with a broad spectrum of socio-affective, cognitive, and physical outcomes.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7282936/

Improve Parkinson’s Disease Psychological Symptoms with Mindfulness

Improve Parkinson’s Disease Psychological Symptoms with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“[Parkinson’s Disease] patients experience greater levels of stress than controls, and that stress worsens both motor and non-motor symptoms. Mindfulness may improve [Parkinson’s Disease] symptom severity, with the strongest effects on anxiety and depressed mood.” – Anouk van der Heide

 

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is an incurable progressive degenerative disease of the central nervous system. The condition is caused by the death of nerve cells in the brain that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. There are around seven million people worldwide and one million people in the U.S. living with PD and about 60,000 people are diagnosed with PD every year. PD is associated with aging as the vast majority of patients are diagnosed after age 50. In fact, it has been speculated that everyone would eventually develop PD if they lived long enough.

 

Its physical symptoms include resting tremor, slow movements, muscle rigidity, problems with posture and balance, loss of automatic movements, and slurring of speech. PD itself is not fatal but is often associated with related complications which can reduce life expectancy, such as falls, choking, and cardiovascular problems. PD also has psychological effects, especially cognitive decline, anxiety, and depression. Balance is a particular problem as it effects mobility and increases the likelihood of falls, restricting activity and reducing quality of life.

 

There are no cures for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) or even treatments to slow its progression. There are only treatments that can produce symptomatic relief. So, there is a need to discover new and different treatments. Mindfulness training has been found to improve the psychological symptoms and the quality of life with PD patients. PD patients often develop an unawareness of their motor symptoms. It is not known if mindfulness training may help make the patients more aware of their symptoms.

 

In today’s Research News article “Pilot Study of Mindfulness Training on the Self-Awareness of Motor Symptoms in Parkinson’s Disease – A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.763350/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1784429_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20211202_arts_A ) Buchwitz and colleagues recruited otherwise healthy patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (average 64 years) and randomly assigned them to either a wait-list control condition or to receive 8 weekly 2-hour sessions of mindfulness training tailored for Parkinson’s Disease patients. Before and after training and 8 weeks later they were measured for awareness of their motor symptoms, cognitive ability, and Parkinson’s Disease symptoms.

 

They found that there was no improvement in general cognitive ability, motor performance, or awareness of motor symptoms by either group. But the mindfulness trained group had significant improvement in mindfulness, sleep quality, attentional ability, and language performance and reductions in anxiety, apathy, and impulsivity of eating behavior.

 

The findings are similar to those of others that mindfulness training improves the psychological well-being of patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. But it did not improve motor symptoms or the awareness of those motor symptoms. This suggests that mindfulness training should be incorporated into the routine treatment program for Parkinson’s Disease patients.

 

So, improve Parkinson’s Disease psychological symptoms with mindfulness

 

 

mindfulness training for people with [Parkinson’s Disease] found significant reductions in anxiety, depression and distress about symptoms, along with improvements in memory and verbal fluency.” – Emily Delzell

 

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Buchwitz TM, Maier F, Greuel A, Thieken F, Steidel K, Jakobs V and Eggers C (2021) Pilot Study of Mindfulness Training on the Self-Awareness of Motor Symptoms in Parkinson’s Disease – A Randomized Controlled Trial. Front. Psychol. 12:763350. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.763350

 

ABSTRACT

Objective: This study aims to evaluate feasibility and effects of a newly developed mindfulness intervention tailored to specific needs of patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Background: The phenomenon of impaired self-awareness of motor symptoms (ISAm) in PD might be reduced by increasing patients’ mindfulness. A PD-specific mindfulness intervention has been developed and evaluated as a potential treatment option: IPSUM (“Insight into Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms by using Mindfulness”).

Methods: IPSUM’s effectiveness is evaluated by comparing an intervention with a waitlist-control group. Applying a pre-post design, patients were assessed before, directly after and 8weeks after treatment. The primary outcome was the change in a quantitative ISAm score from baseline to post-assessment. Secondary outcome measures were PD-related affective changes and neuropsychological test performance. Feasibility was evaluated via feedback forms.

Results: In total, 30 non-depressed and non-demented PD patients were included (intervention: n=14, waitlist-control: n=16). ISAm score did not change significantly, but the training group showed greater performance in sustained attention and language tasks over time. Additional changes included greater mindfulness as well as less sleeping problems and anxiety. Cognitive disturbances, apathy, and sleeping problems worsened only in the waitlist-control group. Patients’ feedback regarding the training concept and material was excellent.

Conclusion: Insight into Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms by using Mindfulness has not been capable of reducing ISAm in PD patients but appears to be a feasible and effective concept to, among others, support mental health in the mid-term. It has to be noted though that the study was stopped beforehand because of the SARS CoV-2 pandemic. The lack of findings might therefore be caused by a lack of statistical power. The need for further research to better understand the mechanisms of ISAm and its connection to mindfulness in PD is highlighted.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.763350/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1784429_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20211202_arts_A

 

Improve Cognitive and Socio-Emotional Skills in Children with Mindfulness

Improve Cognitive and Socio-Emotional Skills in Children with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Teaching mindfulness to kids can also help shape three critical skills developed in early childhood: paying attention and remembering information, shifting back and forth between tasks, and behaving appropriately with others.” – Christopher Willard

 

Childhood is a miraculous period during which the child is dynamically absorbing information from every aspect of its environment. This is particularly evident during the elementary school years. Mindfulness training in school has been shown to have very positive effects. These include improvements in the cognitive, psychological, emotional and social domains. Importantly, mindfulness training in school appears to improve attentional ability which is fundamental to success in all aspects of academic performance. The research evidence has been accumulating. So, there is a need to summarize what has been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “Exploring the Effects of Meditation Techniques Used by Mindfulness-Based Programs on the Cognitive, Social-Emotional, and Academic Skills of Children: A Systematic Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.660650/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1778822_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20211123_arts_A ) Filipe and colleagues review and summarize the published controlled research studies on the effects of mindfulness training on 6-12 year old children. They found 29 published research articles.

 

They report that the published research found that mindfulness training produced significant improvements in the children’s cognitive skills, including overall executive functions, attention, concentration, inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility, and immediate auditory-verbal memory. They also found that there were significant improvements in socio-emotional skills, including stress, wellbeing, mindfulness, self-esteem, resilience, psychological happiness, empathy, perspective-taking, emotional control, optimism, depression, internalizing problems, peer aggression, prosocial behavior, peer acceptance, anxiety, self-control, self-regulation, mental health problems, quality of life, self-compassion, acceptance, relaxation, happiness, aggressive behaviors, and social competence. But only one of the 29 studies reported improvements in academic skills.

 

The published research makes a strong case for the effectiveness of mindfulness training to improve the cognitive and socio-emotional skills on children. But there is little evidence for improvement in academic performance. Unfortunately, only 9 of the 29 studies employed strong research designs (randomized controlled trails). So, there is a need for further research with high quality research designs. Nevertheless, the consistency and magnitude of the findings suggest robust positive effects of mindfulness trainings on a myriad of cognitive, social, and emotional skills in children. These are important benefits for these developing humans that may have important contributions to their growth and well-being, perhaps eventually making them better adults. As such, mindfulness training should be incorporated into the school curriculum.

 

So, improve cognitive and socio-emotional skills in children with mindfulness.

 

For children, mindfulness can offer relief from whatever difficulties they might be encountering in life. It also gives them the beauty of being in the present moment.” – Annaka Harris

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Filipe MG, Magalhães S, Veloso AS, Costa AF, Ribeiro L, Araújo P, Castro SL and Limpo T (2021) Exploring the Effects of Meditation Techniques Used by Mindfulness-Based Programs on the Cognitive, Social-Emotional, and Academic Skills of Children: A Systematic Review. Front. Psychol. 12:660650. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.660650

 

There is evidence for the positive impact of mindfulness in children. However, little is known about the techniques through which mindfulness practice results in differential outcomes. Therefore, this study intended to systematically review the available evidence about the efficacy of meditation techniques used by mindfulness-based programs on cognitive, socio-emotional, and academic skills of children from 6 to 12 years of age. The review was registered on the PROSPERO database, and the literature search was conducted according to PICO criteria and PRISMA guidelines. The EBSCO databases were searched, and 29 studies were eligible: nine randomized controlled trials and 20 quasi-experimental studies. All the included randomized controlled trials were rated as having a high risk of bias. Overall, the evidence for mindfulness techniques improving cognitive and socio-emotional skills was reasonably strong. Specifically, for cognitive skills, results showed that all the interventions used “body-centered meditations” and “mindful observations.” Regarding socio-emotional skills, although all the studies applied “body-centered meditations” and “mindful observations,” “affect-centered meditations” were also frequent. For academic skills, just one quasi-experimental trial found improvements, thus making it difficult to draw conclusions. Further research is crucial to evaluate the unique effects of different meditation techniques on the cognitive, social-emotional, and academic skills of children.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.660650/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1778822_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20211123_arts_A

Mindfulness Improves Cognitive Function in Older Adults by Altering Brain Gene Expression

Mindfulness Improves Cognitive Function in Older Adults by Altering Brain Gene Expression

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

mindfulness may target inflammation, stress-related pathways, and neuroplasticity, thus reducing the risk of developing cerebrovascular disease and age-related neurodegeneration that could lead to the development of dementia.” – Ted Kheng Siang Ng

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. The elderly frequently have problems with attention, thinking, and memory abilities, known as mild cognitive impairment. An encouraging new development is that mindfulness practices such as meditation training and mindful movement practices can significantly reduce these declines in cognitive ability. In addition, it has been found that

mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners. The mechanisms by which mindfulness affects the brain and reduces cognitive decline need to be investigated.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness intervention improves cognitive function in older adults by enhancing the level of miRNA-29c in neuron-derived extracellular vesicles.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8575875/ ) Hashizume and colleagues recruited healthy elderly adults aged 65 and over and administered either 4 weeks , 3 times per week for 60 minutes of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or a no-treatment wait-list condition. They were measured before and after treatment for cognitive function including delayed recall, visuospatial/executive function, attention, abstraction, language, naming, and orientation tasks. They also had blood drawn and assayed for extracellular vesicles and mRNA in the vesicles.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait list control, after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) there were significant improvement in cognitive function including delayed recall, visuospatial/executive function, attention, naming, and orientation tasks. The blood assays revealed that in comparison to baseline and the wait list control, after MBSR there were significant reductions in miR-29c in the extracellular vesicles and decreased expression of the genes DNMT3A, DNMT3B, and BACE1 in in the extracellular vesicles. In another study with mice they found that injection into the brain ventricles of miR-29c prevented cognitive decline in the animals.

 

The results suggest that mindfulness training improves cognitive function in the elderly. These improvements in cognition have been previously observed by other researchers. The new findings in the present research are the changes in the extracellular vesicles found in the plasma. The expression of the mRNA miR-29c controls the gene expressions of DNMT3A, DNMT3B, and BACE1. These genes are associated with the loss of neurons in the brain. With aging there is a degeneration of the brain including losses of neurons. Reductions in the expression of the genes that tend to produce neuronal loss after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) suggests that the training protects the brain from the loss of neurons. This may represent the mechanism by which mindfulness training protects the brain in aging individual which results in improved cognitive function. It may be how mindfulness training stops cognitive decline in the elderly.

 

So, mindfulness improves cognitive function in older adults by altering brain gene expression.

 

an 8-week mindfulness-based training program improved cognition . . . in cognitively normal older adults, and that these improvements were associated with increased intrinsic connectivity within the default mode network.” – Gunes Sevinc

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Hashizume, S., Nakano, M., Kubota, K., Sato, S., Himuro, N., Kobayashi, E., Takaoka, A., & Fujimiya, M. (2021). Mindfulness intervention improves cognitive function in older adults by enhancing the level of miRNA-29c in neuron-derived extracellular vesicles. Scientific reports, 11(1), 21848. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-01318-y

 

Abstract

Although mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) improves cognitive function, the mechanism is not clear. In this study, people aged 65 years and older were recruited from elderly communities in Chitose City, Japan, and assigned to a non-MBSR group or a MBSR group. Before and after the intervention, the Japanese version of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA-J) was administered, and blood samples were collected. Then, neuron-derived extracellular vesicles (NDEVs) were isolated from blood samples, and microRNAs, as well as the target mRNAs, were evaluated in NDEVs. A linear mixed model analysis showed significant effects of the MBSR x time interaction on the MoCA-J scores, the expression of miRNA(miR)-29c, DNA methyltransferase 3 alpha (DNMT3A), and DNMT3B in NDEVs. These results indicate that MBSR can improve cognitive function by increasing the expression of miR-29c and decreasing the expression of DNMT3A, as well as DNMT3B, in neurons. It was also found that intracerebroventricular injection of miR-29c mimic into 5xFAD mice prevented cognitive decline, as well as neuronal loss in the subiculum area, by down-regulating Dnmt3a  and Dnmt3b  in the hippocampus. The present study suggests that MBSR can prevent neuronal loss and cognitive impairment by increasing the neuronal expression of miR-29c.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8575875/

 

Mindfulness is Associated with a Reduced Tendency to Ostracize

Mindfulness is Associated with a Reduced Tendency to Ostracize

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“adults scoring higher on trait mindfulness reported ostracizing coworkers less [and] demonstrated greater inclusion of a fellow group member being ostracized by others in the group.“ – Eric Jones

 

Humans are social animals. This is a great asset for the species as the effort of the individual is amplified by cooperation. In primitive times, this cooperation was essential for survival. But in modern times it is also essential, not for survival but rather for making a living and for the happiness of the individual. This deep need for positive social interactions heightens the pain of social rejection and ostracism. “Ostracism, or being excluded and ignored, is a detrimental experience for the target of ostracism because it harms the target’s relational needs of belonging, self-esteem, meaningful existence, and control, along with worsening the target’s mood.”

 

Mindfulness has been found to increase prosocial behaviors such as altruism, compassion and empathy and reduce antisocial behaviors such as violence and aggression. So, it is likely that mindfulness may affect the individual’s tendency to reject and ostracize others.

 

In today’s Research News article “Who Is Less Likely to Ostracize? Higher Trait Mindfulness Predicts More Inclusionary Behavior.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8277536/ ) Jones and colleagues studied the relationship of mindfulness to ostracism in 3 studies. For all studies they recruited healthy adult workers online.

 

In the first study they had them complete measures of mindfulness, perceived ostracism, perceived stress, and instigation of ostracism. They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of perceived ostracism, perceived stress, and instigation of ostracism. So, mindful workers are more sensitive to ostracism in the workplace and less likely to be involved in ostracism.

 

In the second study they had the participants play a simulated ball tossing game, Cyberball, where they tossed a ball to 3 other participants who were simulated did not exist other than in the program. In one condition the ball was tossed to all participants equally and in the ostracism condition one simulated participant had the ball tossed to them initially but then never again from anyone except the real participant who could toss the ball to the ostracized participant if they chose. They found that the higher the level of participant mindfulness the greater the proportion of simulated ball tosses were directed to the simulated “ostracized” participant. Neither empathy, personal distress, nor the other motives were found to mediate the effects of mindfulness.

 

In the third study they again had the participants play Cyberball with an ostracized simulated participant. There were 2 conditions in that the participants were either instructed at the beginning to pay attention to the other players or did not receive the attention instruction. They found that the attention instruction increased the percentage of tosses directed to the simulated “ostracized” participant. In the attention instruction condition the effects of mindfulness disappeared.

 

The results suggest that high trait mindfulness is associated with less ostracizing of others in their work environments. The simulated ball tossing results suggested that mindfulness is also associated with lower ostracizing in artificial simulated conditions. But when an attention instruction is included the association with mindfulness goes away. This suggests that mindfulness results in a participant paying more attention to others around them and this produces a lowered tendency to ostracize others.

 

Ostracism is extremely harmful to individuals. So, methods to reduce ostracism are socially important. The results suggest that mindfulness may be an effective tool in countering ostracism by making individuals more attentive to others. It remains for future research to determine if training in mindfulness can reduce ostracism.

 

So, mindfulness is associated with a reduced tendency to ostracize.

 

dispositional mindfulness predicted greater empathic concern for, and more helping behavior toward, an ostracized stranger [and] also promoted prosocial responsiveness to an ostracized stranger.“ – Daniel Berry

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Jones, E. E., Wirth, J. H., Ramsey, A. T., & Wynsma, R. L. (2019). Who Is Less Likely to Ostracize? Higher Trait Mindfulness Predicts More Inclusionary Behavior. Personality & social psychology bulletin, 45(1), 105–119. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167218780698

 

Abstract

Despite the pain ostracism (being excluded and ignored) causes, researchers have minimally investigated factors related to reducing its occurrence. We investigated the association between higher trait mindfulness (the tendency to be attentive to the present moment) and lower engagement in ostracism. In Study 1, employed adults scoring higher on trait mindfulness reported ostracizing coworkers less. In Study 2, participants possessing higher levels of trait mindfulness demonstrated greater inclusion of a fellow group member being ostracized by others in the group. Results suggested that attention, rather than empathy, was the psychological process responsible for greater inclusion of an ostracized group member by mindful individuals. Study 3 supported this conclusion, because participants responded similarly to those high in trait mindfulness when they were instructed to pay attention and ensure all players were included equally. Overall, we found that people with higher levels of trait mindfulness are more attentive to targets of ostracism.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8277536/