Improve Brain Processing in Mood Dysregulated Adolescents with Mindfulness

Improve Brain Processing in Mood Dysregulated Adolescents with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness-based interventions—practices that promote non-judgmental attention to the present—can help individuals respond with acceptance to challenging circumstances or emotions and is a promising approach to treatment of mood lability.” – D. M. Hafemann

 

Adolescence is a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. But it can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required. This can lead to emotional and behavioral problems. Indeed, up to a quarter of adolescents suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, and an even larger proportion struggle with subclinical symptoms. Mindfulness training has been shown to improve emotion regulation and to benefit the psychological and emotional health of adolescents

 

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, mindfulness practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. The brains of adolescents are different from fully mature adult brains. They are dynamically growing and changing. It is unclear how mindfulness affects their maturing brains particularly in adolescents who have mood dysregulations.

 

In today’s Research News article “Network-level functional topological changes after mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in mood dysregulated adolescents at familial risk for bipolar disorder: a pilot study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8080341/ ) Qin and colleagues recruited adolescents (13-17 years of age) who were mood dysregulated and who had at least one biological parent with bipolar disorder. They were provided a once a week for 75 minutes for 12-weeks program of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) adapted for children along with home practice. They were measured before and after training for emotion regulation, depressive and manic symptoms, overall global functioning, and clinical ratings. They also had their brains scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).

 

In comparison to baseline they found that after Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) there were surprisingly no significant changes in emotion regulation, depressive and manic symptoms, overall global functioning, and clinical ratings. But there were significant increases in network efficiency and decreases in path length in the cingulo-opercular network and frontal parietal network and increases in the connectivity of brain structures within the cingulo-opercular network and the default mode network. In addition, the shorter the path length within the cingulo-opercular network the higher the level of emotion regulation.

 

These results need to be interpreted with caution as there was no control comparison condition and so there are potential confounding variables that could account for the results. But the psychological results are very disappointing. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) has been routinely found to improve emotions and emotion regulation in previous research. But it did not in the present study. It is possible that unlike with adults, MBCT is simply ineffective in improving the psychological health of mood dysregulated adolescents.

 

On the other hand, the functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) findings were interesting. The cingulo-opercular network and frontal parietal network are both involved in top-down cognitive control. The observed increases in network efficiency within these networks after Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) suggests that MBCT improves the ability of mood dysregulated adolescents to control their thinking. This is exactly what MBCT is designed to do. Unfortunately, the researchers did not measure cognitive ability in this study, so there is no confirmatory behavioral results. The increased emotion regulation associated with decreases in path length in the cingulo-opercular network, though, suggests that the changes in the youths’ brains may be associated with improved ability to control their emotions. This may suggest an a lessened chance of developing major mental illness in the future.

 

So, Improve Brain Processing in Mood Dysregulated Adolescents with Mindfulness.

 

With low level of mindfulness, adolescents might be lack of emotion clarity, self-control and acceptance, which in turn might lead to their poor realization of emotion and easy immersion into dysfunctional emotional reactions such as impulse and aggressive behavior toward others or blame to themselves.” – Ying Ma

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Qin, K., Lei, D., Yang, J., Li, W., Tallman, M. J., Duran, L., Blom, T. J., Bruns, K. M., Cotton, S., Sweeney, J. A., Gong, Q., & DelBello, M. P. (2021). Network-level functional topological changes after mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in mood dysregulated adolescents at familial risk for bipolar disorder: a pilot study. BMC psychiatry, 21(1), 213. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-021-03211-4

 

Abstract

Background

Given that psychopharmacological approaches routinely used to treat mood-related problems may result in adverse outcomes in mood dysregulated adolescents at familial risk for bipolar disorder (BD), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Children (MBCT-C) provides an alternative effective and safe option. However, little is known about the brain mechanisms of beneficial outcomes from this intervention. Herein, we aimed to investigate the network-level neurofunctional effects of MBCT-C in mood dysregulated adolescents.

Methods

Ten mood dysregulated adolescents at familial risk for BD underwent a 12-week MBCT-C intervention. Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was performed prior to and following MBCT-C. Topological metrics of three intrinsic functional networks (default mode network (DMN), fronto-parietal network (FPN) and cingulo-opercular network (CON)) were investigated respectively using graph theory analysis.

Results

Following MBCT-C, mood dysregulated adolescents showed increased global efficiency and decreased characteristic path length within both CON and FPN. Enhanced functional connectivity strength of frontal and limbic areas were identified within the DMN and CON. Moreover, change in characteristic path length within the CON was suggested to be significantly related to change in the Emotion Regulation Checklist score.

Conclusions

12-week MBCT-C treatment in mood dysregulated adolescents at familial risk for BD yield network-level neurofunctional effects within the FPN and CON, suggesting enhanced functional integration of the dual-network. Decreased characteristic path length of the CON may be associated with the improvement of emotion regulation following mindfulness training. However, current findings derived from small sample size should be interpreted with caution. Future randomized controlled trials including larger samples are critical to validate our findings.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8080341/

 

Supportive Environments Promote the Development of Mindfulness in Adolescents.

Supportive Environments Promote the Development of Mindfulness in Adolescents.

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness processes and practices can help young people develop emotional resilience, self-awareness and regulation skills that assist them in taking greater responsibility for their behaviors. – Karen Pace

 

Childhood is a miraculous period during which the child is dynamically absorbing information from every aspect of its environment. It is here that behaviors, knowledge, skills, and attitudes are developed that shape the individual. But what is absorbed depends on the environment. Supportive environments can promote positive development while trouble with peers can interfere. Peer victimization is traumatic for the adolescent and can leave in its wake symptoms which can haunt the victims for the years. It is unclear, however, how the environment including supportive environments and the presence of peer victimization might affect the development of mindfulness in adolescents.

 

In today’s Research News article “Naturalistic development of trait mindfulness: A longitudinal examination of victimization and supportive relationships in early adolescence.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8104379/ )  Warren and colleagues surveyed 4th and 7th grade adolescents. They completed measures of mindfulness, peer victimization, peer belonging, connectedness with adults at home, and self-regulation. They then looked at the social environment in the 4th grade and how it was related to the development of mindfulness in the 7th grade.

 

The found that the higher the levels of peer belonging, connectedness with adults at home, and self-regulation and the lower the levels of peer victimization both in 4th and 7th grades the higher the levels of mindfulness at grade 7. With students with high connectedness with adults at home, peer victimization was associated with a smaller development of mindfulness. The students who had flourishing relationships in the 4th grade (high peer belonging and connectedness with adults at home and low peer victimization) had the greatest increases in mindfulness by the 7th grade.

 

These results suggest that conditions in the 4th grade are associated with mindfulness in the 7th grate, with feelings of belonging with other adolescents promoting the development of mindfulness and victimization by peers interfering with mindfulness development. How connected the youths feel to adults also tends to promote the development of mindfulness except when victimization is present, then the promotion is weaker. Hence, mindfulness develops best in supportive environments.

 

So, supportive environments promote the development of mindfulness in adolescents.

 

Adolescents’ with high levels of dispositional mindfulness may lead to lower level of psychological distress including depression, anxiety, and stress.” Ying Ma

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Warren, M. T., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Gill, R., Gadermann, A. M., & Oberle, E. (2021). Naturalistic development of trait mindfulness: A longitudinal examination of victimization and supportive relationships in early adolescence. PloS one, 16(5), e0250960. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0250960

 

Abstract

Scholars have only just begun to examine elements of young adolescents’ social ecologies that explain naturalistic variation in trait mindfulness and its development over time. We argue that trait mindfulness develops as a function of chronically encountered ecologies that are likely to foster or thwart the repeated enactment of mindful states over time. Using data from 4,593 fourth and seventh grade students (50% female; MageG4 = 9.02; 71% English first language) from 32 public school districts in British Columbia (BC), Canada, we examined links from peer belonging, connectedness with adults at home, and peer victimization to mindfulness over time. Variable-centered analyses indicated that young adolescents with lower victimization in fourth grade reported higher mindfulness in seventh grade, and that cross-sectionally within seventh grade victimization, peer belonging, and connectedness with adults at home were each associated with mindfulness. Contrary to our hypothesis, connectedness with adults at home moderated the longitudinal association between victimization and mindfulness such that the negative association was stronger among young adolescents with high (vs. low) levels of connectedness with adults at home. Person-centered analysis of the fourth graders’ data confirmed our variable-centered findings, yielding four latent classes of social ecology whose mindfulness levels in seventh grade largely tracked with their victimization levels (from highest to lowest mindfulness): (1) flourishing relationships, (2) unvictimized but weak relationships with adults, (3) moderately victimized but strong relationships, and (4) victimized but strong relationships. Overall, our findings contribute to a growing body of evidence indicating that trait mindfulness may develop as a function of ecologically normative experiences in young adolescents’ everyday lives.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8104379/

 

Mindfulness Improves the Attention. Memory, and Stress Resistance of Junior High School Students.

Mindfulness Improves the Attention. Memory, and Stress Resistance of Junior High School Students.

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

youth benefit from learning mindfulness in terms of improved cognitive outcomes, social-emotional skills, and well being. In turn, such benefits may lead to long-term improvements in life.’ – Mindful Schools

 

Childhood and adolescence are miraculous periods during which the youth is dynamically learning and absorbing information from every aspect of its environment. Mindfulness training in school has been shown to have very positive effects. These include improvements in the academic, cognitive, psychological, and social domains. Importantly, mindfulness training in school appears to improve attentional ability which is fundamental to success in all aspects of academic performance. It is unclear the degree to which the students’ levels of mindfulness (trait mindfulness) without training are related to students’ attention, memory, and stress.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Relationship Among Trait Mindfulness, Attention, and Working Memory in Junior School Students Under Different Stressful Situations.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7960675/ ) Li and colleagues performed 2 studies. For both they recruited youths aged 8 to 15 years and measured them for mindfulness, attention and working memory.

 

In the first study they found that the higher the level of mindfulness the higher the levels of attention and working memory. A mediation analysis revealed that mindfulness was associated with working memory directly and also indirectly by being associated with higher levels of attention which in turn were associated with higher levels of working memory. So, the mindfulness association with better working memory was direct and indirect via attention.

 

In a second study they separated the students into a high mindfulness group (top 27%) and a low mindfulness group (bottom 27%). They then measured attention and working memory under 3 conditions; stress-free, single stress, and multiple stresses. The stress-free condition was like that used in study 1. In the single stress condition, a time constraint was placed on the performance of the attention and memory tests. In the multiple stress condition, the time constraint was maintained and additionally the students were informed that the results would be used to determine the top students for individual separate instruction in school.

 

They found that the high mindfulness group had higher attention and working memory scores than the low mindfulness group regardless of condition. They also found that for the high mindfulness group, stress improved both attention and memory scores relative to the stress-free condition with the single stress condition producing the greatest increase. On the other hand, the low mindfulness group had non-significant decreases in performance when stressed.

 

In the present studies the association between mindfulness and attention and working memory are correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. Previous research, however, has clearly demonstrated that mindfulness causes increases in attention and memory. So, the relationship seen here is likely due to a causal connection. The present study, though, demonstrates that the effects of mindfulness on memory are both direct and indirect via effects on attention.

 

The present study also shows that stress improves the performance of high but not low mindfulness students. Stress is known to interfere with attention and memory performance. But mindfulness has been shown to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. So, it appears that mindfulness reduces the students’ responses to stress and thereby further improves their attention and memory.

 

So, mindfulness improves the attention. memory, and stress resistance of junior high school students.

 

Students who did about an hour of “mindfulness training” for eight days subsequently did better on the GRE as well as tests of working memory and mind-wandering.” – James Hamblin

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Li, Y., Yang, N., Zhang, Y., Xu, W., & Cai, L. (2021). The Relationship Among Trait Mindfulness, Attention, and Working Memory in Junior School Students Under Different Stressful Situations. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 558690. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.558690

 

Abstract

Attention and working memory are important cognitive functions that affect junior school students’ learning ability and academic performance. This study aimed to explore the relationships among trait mindfulness, attention, and working memory and to explore differences in performance between a high trait mindfulness group and a low one in attention and working memory under different stressful situations. In study 1, 216 junior school students completed the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), and their attention and working memory were tested in a non-pressure situation. The results showed that attention had a partial mediating effect between mindfulness and working memory. In study 2, the high trait mindfulness group and the low one were tested for attention and working memory under situations with single and multiple pressures. One notable result was that the attention and working memory performances of the high mindfulness group were all significantly higher than those of the low mindfulness group in every stress situation (no stress, single stress, and multiple stresses). Other important results were that trait mindfulness moderates the relationship between stress and attention and between stress and working memory. These results suggest that trait mindfulness has a protective effect in the process by which various stresses affect attention and working memory. These findings indicate that trait mindfulness is an important psychological quality that affects the attention and working memory of junior school students, and it is also an important psychological resource for effectively coping with the impact of stress on attention and working memory. Therefore, it is possible that improving trait mindfulness may help to improve junior school students’ attention and working memory and enable them to cope better with stress, thereby helping to improve academic performance. This research is of great significance for understanding the association between key psychological qualities and cognitive functions in different stressful situations. These findings also provide insight for future studies in educational psychology.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7960675/

 

Improve Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents with Mindfulness

Improve Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The more present you are in life, the more you realize you make better decisions, manage your emotions, and are fully engaged in life.” – Stephanie Gutzmer

 

A characterizing feature of anxiety disorders is recurring thoughts, such as impending disaster, that they may realize are unreasonable, but are unable to shake. Anxiety often co-occurs with depression or is a precursor to bipolar disorder. Anxiety disorders and depression have generally been treated with drugs. But there are considerable side effects and these drugs are often abused. In addition, drugs can be problematic for the developing brain. So, there is a need to develop alternative treatments particularly for children and adolescents. Mindfulness practices have been shown to be quite effective in relieving anxiety.

 

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) involves mindfulness training, containing sitting, walking and body scan meditations, and cognitive therapy That is designed to alter how the patient relates to the thought processes that often underlie and exacerbate psychological symptoms. MBCT has been shown to reduce anxiety. It has been proposed that intervening early may tend to mitigate or prevent future disorders So, it makes sense to examine the ability of MBCT to treat anxiety disorders in children and adolescents.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children and adolescents with anxiety disorders at-risk for bipolar disorder: A psychoeducation waitlist controlled pilot trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7307795/ ) Cotton and colleagues recruited youths aged 9-18 years diagnosed with anxiety disorder and who had at least one parent diagnosed with bipolar disorder. They were assigned in an age balanced way to either a wait-list control condition or to receive 12 weekly, 75-minute Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Children (MBCT-C) group sessions. They were measured before and after training and weekly for anxiety, clinician-rated anxiety and anxiety-related functional impairment, emotion regulation, mindfulness, and clinician-rated illness severity.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group after Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Children (MBCT-C) there was a significant reduction in clinician-rated illness severity. They also found that during the 12 weeks of treatment, the MBCT-C group had significant reductions in anxiety. In addition, the greater the increase in mindfulness the greater the reduction in anxiety and the greater the increase in emotion regulation.

 

These are interesting results that suggest that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) may be effective in reducing anxiety and illness severity in children and adolescents with anxiety disorders at-risk for bipolar disorder. In some ways these results are not surprising in that MBCT has been shown to reduce anxiety in adults and mindfulness has been found to be associated with reduced anxiety and improved emotion regulation. But MBCT might be considered as too sophisticated for children and adolescents. So, it is significant that it can be successfully applied to children and adolescents. It can relieve their anxiety and decrease the intensity of their disorder.

 

So, improve anxiety disorders in children and adolescents with mindfulness.

 

Being mindful means paying attention to the present moment, exactly as it is. It is really hard to be anxious if you are completely focused on the present moment – what you are sensing and doing RIGHT NOW … and NOW … and NOW.” – Anxiety Canada

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Cotton, S., Kraemer, K. M., Sears, R. W., Strawn, J. R., Wasson, R. S., McCune, N., Welge, J., Blom, T. J., Durling, M., & Delbello, M. P. (2020). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children and adolescents with anxiety disorders at-risk for bipolar disorder: A psychoeducation waitlist controlled pilot trial. Early intervention in psychiatry, 14(2), 211–219. https://doi.org/10.1111/eip.12848

 

Abstract

Aim.

Previous studies suggest that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Children (MBCT-C) is feasible and may improve anxiety and emotion regulation in youth with anxiety disorders at-risk for bipolar disorder. However, controlled studies are warranted to replicate and extend these findings.

Methods.

In the current study, 24 youth with anxiety disorders who have at least one parent with bipolar disorder participated in a MBCT-C treatment period (n = 24; Mage = 13.6, 75% girls, 79% White) with a subset also participating in a prior psychoeducation waitlist control period (n = 19 Mage = 13.8, 68% girls, 84% White). Participants in both the waitlist and MBCT-C periods completed independently-rated symptom scales at each time point. Participants in the waitlist period received educational materials 12 weeks prior to the beginning of MBCT-C.

Results.

There were significantly greater improvements in overall clinical severity in the MBCT-C period compared to the waitlist period, but not in clinician- and child-rated anxiety, emotion regulation or mindfulness. However, increases in mindfulness were associated with improvements in anxiety and emotion regulation in the MBCT-C period, but not the waitlist period.

Conclusions.

Findings suggest that MBCT-C may be effective for improving overall clinical severity in youth with anxiety disorders who are at-risk for bipolar disorder. However, waitlist controlled designs may inflate effect sizes so interpret with caution. Larger studies utilizing prospective randomized controlled designs are warranted.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7307795/

 

Improve Adolescent Scoliosis with Select Yoga Poses

Improve Adolescent Scoliosis with Select Yoga Poses

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yoga can be very helpful for those with scoliosis, particularly given the combination of flexibility and core stabilization needed to perform yoga poses properly.” – Sara Lindberg

 

Scoliosis is a sidewise curvature of the spine that occurs in about 3% of adolescents. It develops most frequently in a growth spurt just prior to puberty. Most cases are mild and can be treated with a brace to stop the curve from increasing. But more serious cases can be disabling and may be treated with surgery.

 

There is a need for safe and effective treatments for scoliosis. Yoga practice combines mindfulness practice with exercise and has been shown to have a myriad of health benefits including the relief of chronic low-back pain. Many forms of yoga focus on the proper alignment of the spine, which could directly address the spinal curvature of scoliosis. But care must be taken as some yoga poses have the potential to exacerbate the spinal curvature.

 

In today’s Research News article “Isometric Yoga-Like Maneuvers Improve Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis-A Nonrandomized Control Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7917413/ )  Fishman recruited adolescents less than 21 years of age with scoliosis and had them either receive treatment as usual, or yoga practice employing the side-plank pose for a lumbar curve, the half-moon and floating side plank poses for a thoracic curve, and or a side-plank, half-moon, and floating side plank poses for a Thoracolumbar curve. The yoga group was instructed to practice daily for 5 months and hold each pose for as long as they could. Instruction occurred either in person or over the internet. X-rays were taken of their spines before and after treatment.

 

They found that in the yoga group 49% of the lumbar and thoracolumbar curves and 29% of the thoracic curves had significant improvement while none of the control group did. In person and internet instruction were equally effective but compliance was better with in person instruction.

 

These results suggest that practicing a select set of yoga poses appears to be effective in treating scoliosis in adolescents. It is important that the right poses are used. Many yoga poses could well exacerbate the problem. In this study the side-plank, half-moon, and floating side plank poses were found to produce significant improvements.

 

So, improve adolescent scoliosis with select yoga poses

 

 

But yoga and scoliosis don’t necessarily go hand in hand. While many poses are perfectly safe for scoliotic spines — and some even provide proven benefits — many others can make the curves worse. To safely perform yoga for scoliosis relief, it’s important to differentiate between asanas that can help and those that pose a risk.” – Clayton Stitzel

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Fishman L. M. (2021). Isometric Yoga-Like Maneuvers Improve Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis-A Nonrandomized Control Trial. Global advances in health and medicine, 10, 2164956120988259. https://doi.org/10.1177/2164956120988259

 

Abstract

Objective

Assess therapeutic value of specific yoga poses for thoracic and lumbar adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) taught in office or Internet.

Study Design

Nonrandomized control trial: Fifty-six adolescents (mean age 14.0 years; mean Risser 3.0) were recruited from our clinic; 41 did the side-plank, the half-moon and elevated side plank poses as appropriate (treatment group) and 15 did not (controls). Thirty curves were treated in office, 30 via Internet. Curve change was evaluated by blinded serial Cobb angles, and analyzed using Mann-Whitney U, paired t-tests and χ2.

Results

Mean lumbar and thoracolumbar Cobb angle change was −9.2 (95% CI = −11.8, −6.6) in the treatment group and 5.4 (95% CI = 1.7, 9.0) in controls. Both treatment group improvement and deterioration in controls were significant (treatment group: paired t-test t = −7.1, df = 40, p = .000; controls: t = 3.2, df = 12, p = .008). Mean thoracic Cobb angle change was −7.1 (95% CI = −13.1, −1.2) in the treatment group and 9.3 (95% CI = 4.5, 14.6) in controls. Both changes were significant (paired t-test t = −3.3, df = 21, p = .022 for treatment group; t = 4.5, df = 5, p = .006 for controls). Nine Internet patients were non-compliant vs. 6 office patients. Office patients improved 1.6 degrees/month or 5.5%/month; Internet patients improved .72 degrees/month or 3.3%/month.

Conclusion

These yoga poses show promise for reversing adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Telemedicine had greater non-compliance and lower efficacy but still produced patient improvement.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7917413/

 

Improve Physical and Mental Well-Being with Mindfulness Meditation-Based Interventions

Improve Physical and Mental Well-Being with Mindfulness Meditation-Based Interventions

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness meditation is related to improved mental health across a variety of disorders, including different anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and chronic pain symptom reduction.” – Jennifer Wolkin

 

Over the last several decades, research and anecdotal experiences have accumulated an impressive evidential case that the development of mindfulness has positive benefits for the individual’s mental, physical, and spiritual life. Mindfulness appears to be beneficial both for healthy people and for people suffering from a myriad of mental and physical illnesses. It appears to be beneficial across ages, from children to the elderly. And it appears to be beneficial across genders, personalities, race, and ethnicity. The breadth and depth of benefits is unprecedented. There is no other treatment or practice that has been shown to come anyway near the range of mindfulness’ positive benefits.

 

Over the last few decades, a vast amount of research has been published on the benefits of mindfulness practices on the mental and physical health of the practitioners. Many reviews, summarizations, and meta-analyses have been performed of these studies. So, it makes sense to step back and summarize what these meta-analyses have found.

 

In today’s Research News article “The empirical status of mindfulness-based interventions: A systematic review of 44 meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://centerhealthyminds.org/assets/files-publications/Goldberg-the-empirical-status.pdf ) Goldberg and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of previous meta-analyses of published randomized controlled studies on benefits of sustained meditation practices on mental and physical well-being. They identified 44 published meta-analyses, representing 336 randomized controlled trials, which included a total of 30,483 participants.

 

They report that the meta-analyses of published randomized controlled trials found that sustained mindfulness meditation practices in comparison to passive, no treatment, controls had a very wide range of beneficial effects across a wide range of participants from children to the elderly, over a variety of programs from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to mobile health, over a variety of psychological issues from anxiety to psychoses, and over a wide range of diseases from chronic pain to cancer. These effects were present immediately post treatment and at later follow-ups (an average of 7 months after treatment).

 

Comparison of these mindfulness meditation practices to active control conditions such as attentional controls to evidence-based treatments, resulted in reduced effect sizes and many were non-significant. Mindfulness meditation practices had significantly superior effects than active controls for adults, children, employees, and health care professionals/trainees but not for students. They were superior for psychiatric disorders, substance use, smoking, and depression but not for physical health conditions, pain, weight/eating-related conditions, cancer, or anxiety. They were superior for stress, and psychiatric symptoms but not for sleep, physical health symptoms, objective measures, or physiological measures.

 

These findings are essentially summaries of summaries and are based upon a wide variety of different researchers, methodologies, cultures, and time frames. Yet, the results are fairly consistent. In comparison to doing nothing, passive controls, mindfulness meditation practices are very beneficial for a wide range of physical and psychological issues over a wide range of ages. But these practices when compared to other types of treatments, are less effective and at times not superior. Nevertheless, this meta-analysis of meta-analyses paints a clear picture of the wide-ranging efficacy of mindfulness meditation practices for the relief of physical and psychological issues. These results verify the unprecedented depth and breadth of benefits of mindfulness meditation practices.

 

So, improve physical and mental well-being with mindfulness meditation-based interventions.

 

Practicing mindfulness exercises can have many possible benefits, including: reduced stress, anxiety and depression, less negative thinking and distraction, and improved mood,” -Mayo Clinic

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Goldberg, S. B., Riordan, K., Sun, S., & Davidson, R. J. (2021). The empirical status of mindfulness-based interventions: A systematic review of 44 meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials. Perspectives on Psychological Science 1–23, DOI: 10.1177/1745691620968771

 

Abstract

In response to questions regarding the scientific basis for mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs), we evaluated their empirical status by systematically reviewing meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). We searched six databases for effect sizes based on ≥4 trials that did not combine passive and active controls. Heterogeneity, moderators, tests of publication bias, risk of bias, and adverse effects were also extracted. Representative effect sizes based on the largest number of studies were identified across a wide range of populations, problems, interventions, comparisons, and outcomes (PICOS). A total of 160 effect sizes were reported in 44 meta-analyses (k=336 RCTs, N=30,483 participants). MBIs showed superiority to passive controls across most PICOS (ds=0.10-0.89). Effects were typically smaller and less often statistically significant when compared to active controls. MBIs were similar or superior to specific active controls and evidence-based treatments. Heterogeneity was typically moderate. Few consistent moderators were found. Results were generally robust to publication bias, although other important sources of bias were identified. Reporting of adverse effects was inconsistent. Statistical power may be lacking in meta-analyses, particularly for comparisons with active controls. As MBIs show promise across some PICOS, future RCTs and meta-analyses should build upon identified strengths and limitations of this literature.

https://centerhealthyminds.org/assets/files-publications/Goldberg-the-empirical-status.pdf

 

Meditation Changes the Brain Differently in Adolescents

Meditation Changes the Brain Differently in Adolescents

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The benefits of meditation are many with few, if any, drawbacks. If your teen is struggling, it’d be worth it to give it a try.” – Tyler Jacobson

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that mindfulness has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. It even improves high level thinking known as executive function. Its positive effects are so widespread that it is difficult to find any other treatment of any kind with such broad beneficial effects on everything from thinking to mood and happiness to severe mental and physical illnesses. This raises the question of how mindfulness training could produce such widespread and varied benefits. One possibility is that mindfulness practice results in beneficial changes in the nervous system.

 

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, mindfulness practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. The brains of adolescents are different from fully mature adult brains. They are dynamically growing and changing. It is unclear how mindfulness affects their maturing brains.

 

In today’s Research News article “Gray Matter Changes in Adolescents Participating in a Meditation Training.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7456888/ ) Yuan and colleagues recruited adolescents aged 14 to 19 years and provided them with a 12 week training in mindfulness meditation. They and a control sample of adolescents underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of their brains before and after training.

 

They found that after training there was a significant reduction in the volume of gray matter in the left thalamus, left putamen, and left posterior insula. There was no significant influence of age on the decreased volumes. Also, there were no significant increases in gray matter volume were found anywhere in the adolescents’ brains.

 

These results are very surprising. In adults, mindfulness training has been repeatedly shown to increase gray matter volume, not decrease it. The insula, in particular, has been shown to increase in volume after mindfulness training in adults. The insula is thought to underlie awareness of the internal state of the body. Since, mindfulness training usually increases this awareness, the increase in insula volume makes sense, but that it would decrease in volume in the adolescents does not.

 

During adolescents the brain is actively growing and changing. It is possible that mindfulness training affects the growing brain differently than after maturation in adulthood. This suggests that mindfulness may have different effects in adolescents than in adults. But this has not been shown to be the case. In fact, mindfulness training appears to have the same effects in adolescents as in adults. More research is needed to further investigate this phenomenon.

 

So, it would appear that meditation changes the brain differently in adolescents.

 

It is well-documented that mindfulness helps to relieve depression and anxiety in adults.  A small but growing body of research shows that it may also improve adolescent resilience to stress through improved cognitive performance and emotional regulation.” – Malka Main

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Justin P. Yuan, Colm G. Connolly, Eva Henje, Leo P. Sugrue, Tony T. Yang, Duan Xu, Olga Tymofiyeva. Gray Matter Changes in Adolescents Participating in a Meditation Training. Front Hum Neurosci. 2020; 14: 319. Published online 2020 Aug 14. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2020.00319

 

Abstract

Meditation has shown to benefit a wide range of conditions and symptoms, but the neural mechanisms underlying the practice remain unclear. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have investigated the structural brain changes due to the practice by examining volume, density, or cortical thickness changes. However, these studies have focused on adults; meditation’s structural effects on the adolescent brain remain understudied. In this study, we investigated how meditation training affects the structure of the adolescent brain by scanning a group of 38 adolescents (16.48 ± 1.29 years) before and after participating in a 12-week meditation training. Subjects underwent Training for Awareness, Resilience, and Action (TARA), a program that mainly incorporates elements from mindfulness meditation and yoga-based practices. A subset of the adolescents also received an additional control scan 12 weeks before TARA. We conducted voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to assess gray matter volume changes pre- to post-training and during the control period. Subjects showed significant gray matter (GM) volume decreases in the left posterior insula and to a lesser extent in the left thalamus and left putamen after meditation training. There were no significant changes during the control period. Our results support previous findings that meditation affects regions associated with physical and emotional awareness. However, our results are different from previous morphometric studies in which meditation was associated with structural increases. We posit that this discrepancy may be due to the differences between the adolescent brain and the adult brain.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7456888/

 

Spirituality is Associated with Better Psychological Health of Adolescents with Cancer

Spirituality is Associated with Better Psychological Health of Adolescents with Cancer

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Spirituality plays a significant role for adolescents with cancer as it contributes to increased comfort and calmness, and better coping mechanisms when confronted with the illness, which indirectly improves the adolescent’s quality of life.” – Sembiring Lina Mahayati

 

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. These feeling can result from changes in body image, changes to family and work roles, feelings of grief at these losses, and physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, or fatigue. People might also fear death, suffering, pain, or all the unknown things that lie ahead. So, coping with the emotions and stress of a cancer diagnosis is a challenge and there are no simple treatments for these psychological sequelae of cancer diagnosis. Adolescents with cancer are particularly vulnerable with high levels of anxiety, depression, fatigue, and pain interference.

 

Religion and spirituality become much more important to people when they’re diagnosed with cancer or when living with cancer. It is thought that people take comfort in the spiritual when facing mortality. Hence, spirituality and mindfulness may be useful tools for the survivors of cancer to cope with their illness. Thus, there is a need to study the relationships of spirituality on the ability of adolescent cancer survivors to positively adjust to their situation.

 

In today’s Research News article “.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7298609/ ) Grossoehme and colleagues recruited adolescents, aged 14 to 21 years, who were diagnosed with cancer. They had them complete measures of spirituality, feeling God’s presence; praying privately; attending religious services; identifying as religious; identifying as spiritual, emotional distress–anxiety; emotional distress–depressive symptoms; fatigue; and pain interference, health-related quality of life

 

They found that the higher the levels of feeling God’s presence and identifying as a very religious person the lower the levels of anxiety, depressive symptoms, and fatigue. Structural equation modelling revealed that the levels of feeling God’s presence and identifying as a very religious person also were indirectly associated with anxiety, depressive symptoms, and fatigue via a positive association with a sense of meaning and peace. That is, the greater the feelings God’s presence and religiosity the greater the feelings of peace and meaningfulness in life and these feelings were in turn negatively associated with negative emotional states.

 

These results are correlational and as such no conclusions about causation can be definitively made. But the results clearly show that there are relationships between being spiritual and religious and better emotional states in adolescent cancer victims. They also suggest that this relationship is mediated by feelings of meaningfulness and peace. It could be speculated that these relationships occur due to causal connections and interpreted that being spiritual produces a state of peacefulness and meaning in life that counteracts the negative emotions associated with cancer. It remains for future research to determine if increasing spirituality would lead to better emotional adjustments to a cancer diagnosis.

 

Hence, spirituality is associated with better psychological health of adolescents with cancer.

 

As is true with older cancer survivors, spirituality is related to many aspects of well-being for AYA survivors, but relations are more consistent for meaning/peace and struggle.” – Crystal Park

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Grossoehme, D. H., Friebert, S., Baker, J. N., Tweddle, M., Needle, J., Chrastek, J., Thompkins, J., Wang, J., Cheng, Y. I., & Lyon, M. E. (2020). Association of Religious and Spiritual Factors With Patient-Reported Outcomes of Anxiety, Depressive Symptoms, Fatigue, and Pain Interference Among Adolescents and Young Adults With Cancer. JAMA network open, 3(6), e206696. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.6696

 

Key Points

Question

Among adolescents and young adults with cancer, is there an association between spirituality and patient-reported outcomes, and are these outcomes associated with a sense of meaning, peace, and comfort provided by faith?

Findings

In this cross-sectional study of 126 adolescents and young adults with cancer, structural equation modeling revealed that meaning and peace were associated with aspects of spirituality and religiousness as well as anxiety, depressive, and fatigue symptoms.

Meaning

In this study, participants’ sense of meaning and peace was associated with religiousness and with anxiety and depression, possibly representing an underappreciated intervention target.

Question

Among adolescents and young adults with cancer, is there an association between spirituality and patient-reported outcomes, and are these outcomes associated with a sense of meaning, peace, and comfort provided by faith?

Findings

In this cross-sectional study of 126 adolescents and young adults with cancer, structural equation modeling revealed that meaning and peace were associated with aspects of spirituality and religiousness as well as anxiety, depressive, and fatigue symptoms.

Meaning

In this study, participants’ sense of meaning and peace was associated with religiousness and with anxiety and depression, possibly representing an underappreciated intervention target.

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Abstract

Importance

The associations of spiritual and religious factors with patient-reported outcomes among adolescents with cancer are unknown.

Objective

To model the association of spiritual and religious constructs with patient-reported outcomes of anxiety, depressive symptoms, fatigue, and pain interference.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This cross-sectional study used baseline data, collected from 2016 to 2019, from an ongoing 5-year randomized clinical trial being conducted at 4 tertiary-referral pediatric medical centers in the US. A total of 366 adolescents were eligible for the clinical trial, and 126 were randomized; participants had to be aged 14 to 21 years at enrollment and be diagnosed with any form of cancer. Exclusion criteria included developmental delay, scoring greater than 26 on the Beck Depression Inventory II, non-English speaking, or unaware of cancer diagnosis.

Exposures

Spiritual experiences, values, and beliefs; religious practices; and overall self-ranking of spirituality’s importance.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Variables were taken from the Brief Multidimensional Measurement of Religiousness/Spirituality (ie, feeling God’s presence, daily prayer, religious service attendance, being very religious, and being very spiritual) and the spiritual well-being subscales of the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy (meaning/peace and faith). Predefined outcome variables were anxiety, depressive symptoms, fatigue, and pain interference from Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System pediatric measures.

Results

A total of 126 individuals participated (72 [57.1%] female participants; 100 [79.4%] white participants; mean [SD] age, 16.9 [1.9] years). Structural equation modeling showed that meaning and peace were inversely associated with anxiety (β = –7.94; 95% CI, –12.88 to –4.12), depressive symptoms (β = –10.49; 95% CI, –15.92 to –6.50), and fatigue (β = –8.90; 95% CI, –15.34 to –3.61). Feeling God’s presence daily was indirectly associated with anxiety (β = –3.37; 95% CI, –6.82 to –0.95), depressive symptoms (β = –4.50; 95% CI, –8.51 to –1.40), and fatigue (β = –3.73; 95% CI, –8.03 to –0.90) through meaning and peace. Considering oneself very religious was indirectly associated with anxiety (β = –2.81; 95% CI, –6.06 to –0.45), depressive symptoms (β = −3.787; 95% CI, –7.68 to –0.61), and fatigue (β = –3.11, 95% CI, –7.31 to –0.40) through meaning and peace. Considering oneself very spiritual was indirectly associated with anxiety (β = 2.11; 95% CI, 0.05 to 4.95) and depression (β = 2.8, 95% CI, 0.07 to 6.29) through meaning and peace. No associations were found between spiritual scales and pain interference.

Conclusions and Relevance

In this study, multiple facets of spirituality and religiousness were associated with anxiety, depression, and fatigue, all of which were indirectly associated with the participant’s sense of meaning and peace, which is a modifiable process. Although these results do not establish a causal direction, they do suggest palliative interventions addressing meaning-making, possibly including a spiritual or religious dimension, as a novel focus for intervention development.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7298609/Importance

 

Improve Adolescent Social Anxiety Disorder with Mindfulness

Improve Adolescent Social Anxiety Disorder with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

The power of a mindfulness practice, however, may come in the realization that one can live a meaningful life even with social anxiety.” – Jason Drwal

 

It is a common human phenomenon that being in a social situation can be stressful and anxiety producing. Most people can deal with the anxiety and can become quite comfortable. But many do not cope well and the anxiety is overwhelming, causing the individual to withdraw. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and feeling embarrassed or humiliated by their actions. This fear may be so severe that it interferes with work, school, and other activities and may negatively affect the person’s ability to form relationships.

 

Anxiety disorders have generally been treated with drugs. But there are considerable side effects and these drugs are often abused. There are a number of psychological therapies for anxiety. But, about 45% of the patients treated do not respond to the therapy. So, there is a need to develop alternative treatments. Recently, it has been found that mindfulness training can be effective for anxiety disorders including Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) in adults. But, social anxiety is very common in adolescents. The question remains of the effectiveness of mindfulness training on the social anxiety of adolescents.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Adolescent Social Anxiety: A Unique Convergence of Factors.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01783/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1391749_69_Psycho_20200730_arts_A) Carlton and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies on the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions on social anxiety disorders in adolescents.

 

They report that there are very few published studies on the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions on social anxiety disorders in adolescents. What studies are available have small sample sizes and they lack appropriate control conditions. As such, conclusions must be considered preliminary. Nevertheless, mindfulness-based interventions have been shown in a few studies to produce significant increases in positive emotions and significant reductions in anxiety symptoms in adolescents. Lumped into these anxiety disorders is social anxiety. But social anxiety is not singled out. It is clear from these studies that mindfulness-based interventions can be effectively used for adolescents.

 

Hence the existing research studies suggest that mindfulness-based interventions may be effective for social anxiety disorders in adolescents. But definitive evidence is not present. This suggests that a large randomized controlled clinical trial should be performed of the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions on social anxiety disorders in adolescents.

 

So, improve adolescent social anxiety disorder with mindfulness.

 

“dealing with social anxiety, it is much more useful to practice mindful focus during conversations and other situations around people in which we are uncomfortable.” – National Social Anxiety Center

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Carlton CN, Sullivan-Toole H, Strege MV, Ollendick TH and Richey JA (2020) Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Adolescent Social Anxiety: A Unique Convergence of Factors. Front. Psychol. 11:1783. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01783

 

ABSTRACT

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a debilitating and often chronic psychiatric disorder that typically onsets during early adolescence. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), the current “gold-standard” treatment for SAD, tends to focus on threat- and fear-based systems hypothesized to maintain the disorder. Despite this targeted approach, SAD ranks among the least responsive anxiety disorders to CBT in adolescent samples, with a considerable proportion of individuals still reporting clinically significant symptoms following treatment, suggesting that the CBT-family of interventions may not fully target precipitating or maintaining factors of the disorder. This gap in efficacy highlights the need to consider new therapeutic modalities. Accordingly, this brief review critically evaluates the emergent literature supporting the use of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) for treating adolescent SAD. MBIs may be particularly relevant for addressing maintaining factors within this diagnosis, as they may target and interrupt cycles of avoidance and de-motivation. Despite limitations in the relative lack of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on this topic, a unique convergence of factors emerge from the extant literature that support the notion that MBIs may hold particular promise for attenuating symptoms of SAD in adolescents. These factors include: (1) MBIs demonstrate the ability to directly engage symptoms of SAD; (2) MBIs also show consistent reduction of anxiety, including symptoms of social anxiety in adolescent populations; and (3) MBIs demonstrate high rates of feasibility and acceptability in anxious adolescent samples. We briefly review each topic and conclude that MBIs are an encouraging treatment approach for reducing symptoms of social anxiety in adolescents. However, given the lack of research within MBIs for adolescent SAD in particular, more research is needed to determine if MBIs are more advantageous than other current treatment approaches.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01783/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1391749_69_Psycho_20200730_arts_A

 

Meditate to Alter the Brain and Overcome Attention and Hyperactivity Problems Resulting from Childhood Neglect

Meditate to Alter the Brain and Overcome Attention and Hyperactivity Problems Resulting from Childhood Neglect

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Without appropriate clinical interventions, individuals exposed to relational trauma in childhood are at greater risk for difficulties in adult relationships and parenting.” At present, there is not much in the way of treatment for individual adults who have experienced childhood maltreatment: this study shows that mindfulness could help change that.” – Emily Nauman

 

Child maltreatment is the abuse and neglect that occurs to children under 18 years of age. It includes all types of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence and commercial or other exploitation, which results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.” (World Health Organization, 2016)

 

Childhood neglect is traumatic and can leave in its wake symptoms which can haunt the victims for the rest of their lives. These include cognitive impairments such as attentional difficulties, difficulty concentrating, and hyperactivity. Unfortunately, childhood neglect can continue to affect mental and physical health throughout the individual’s life. Fortunately, mindfulness training has been found to help. Indeed, mindfulness has been found to be effective for relieving trauma symptoms even in adults who were maltreated in childhood..

 

In today’s Research News article “Closed-loop digital meditation for neurocognitive and behavioral development in adolescents with childhood neglect.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7235252/) Mishra and colleagues recruited adolescents (aged 10-18 years) who had experienced childhood neglect. They were randomly assigned to either a no-treatment control condition or to receive over the internet 30 sessions over 6 weeks of 30 minutes of either breath following meditation or attention to sensory information video games. They were measured before and after training and one year later for sustained attention, attention with distractors, inattention behaviors, hyperactivity, and academic performance. They also had their brains scanned with Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI).

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the no-treatment and the attention to sensory information groups, the breath following meditation group after treatment had significant increases in attentional ability, both sustained and with distractors and a significant improvement in academic performance. In addition, the breath following meditation groups had a significant decrease in hyperactivity at the 1-year follow-up. The resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) revealed that the greater the level of childhood neglect experienced by the adolescents the lower the functional connectivity of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. After treatment only the breath following meditation group had a significant increase in the functional connectivity of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and the greater the increase in connectivity the greater the improvements in sustained attention and hyperactivity.

 

These are interesting and potentially important findings. Childhood neglect appears to result in impairments in the connectivity of a key brain area involved in regulating attention, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. This could explain why neglected children have a higher likelihood of developing attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder in adolescents. Importantly, training in breath following meditation appears to some extent reverse the loss of functional connectivity and the attentional and hyperactivity symptoms of the adolescents and result in improved performance in school. Hence, training in breath following meditation may be very helpful in preventing childhood neglect from producing ADHD in adolescents and impairing their academic performance.

 

Another important aspect of the present study was that the treatment was provided over the internet. This greatly increases its availability, convenience, and utility and reduces cost. So, the treatment can be cost effectively scaled up to treat large numbers of adolescents scattered over wide geographic regions. This makes it available to adolescents who are neither near a therapist or can afford therapy.

 

Hence, meditate to alter the brain and overcome attention and hyperactivity problems resulting from childhood neglect.

 

The absence of emotional support in childhood can be as damaging and long-lasting as other traumas. But, because you can’t point to exactly where and when the wounding happened, it can be hard to identify and overcome it.” – Andrea Brandt

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available at the Contemplative Studies Blog http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/

They are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Mishra, J., Sagar, R., Parveen, S., Kumaran, S., Modi, K., Maric, V., Ziegler, D., & Gazzaley, A. (2020). Closed-loop digital meditation for neurocognitive and behavioral development in adolescents with childhood neglect. Translational psychiatry, 10(1), 153. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-020-0820-z

 

Abstract

Adverse childhood experiences are linked to poor attentive behaviors during adolescence, as well as increased risk for mental health disorders in adults. However, no study has yet tested targeted interventions to optimize neurocognitive processes in this population. Here, we investigated closed-loop digital interventions in a double-blind randomized controlled study in adolescents with childhood neglect, and evaluated the outcomes using multimodal assessments of neuroimaging, cognitive, behavioral, and academic evaluations. In the primary neuroimaging results, we demonstrate that a closed-loop digital meditation intervention can strengthen functional connectivity of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) in the cingulo-opercular network, which is critically developing during the adolescent period. Second, this intervention enhanced sustained attention and interference-resolution abilities, and also reduced behavioral hyperactivity at a 1-year follow-up. Superior academic performance was additionally observed in adolescents who underwent the digital meditation intervention. Finally, changes in dACC functional connectivity significantly correlated with improvements in sustained attention, hyperactivity, and academic performance. This first study demonstrates that closed-loop digital meditation practice can facilitate development of important aspects of neurocognition and real-life behaviors in adolescents with early childhood neglect.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7235252/