Improve Emotion Self-Regulation in Neurotic Students with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“negative emotional reactivity associated with neuroticism is partially due to low levels of mindfulness.” – Mario Wenzel
Neuroticism is considered a personality trait that is a lasting characteristic of the individual. It is characterized by negative feelings, repetitive thinking about the past (rumination), and worry about the future, moodiness and loneliness. It appears to be linked to vulnerability to stress. People who have this characteristic are not happy with life and have a low subjective sense of well-being and recognize that this state is unacceptable. There is some hope for people with high neuroticism as this relatively stable characteristic appears to be lessened by mindfulness training.
Mindfulness is also known to affect the activity of the nervous system. One way to observe the effects of mindfulness on neural activity is to measure changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG), the rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp. The recorded activity can be separated into frequency bands. Delta activity consists of oscillations in the 0.5-3 cycles per second band. Theta activity in the EEG consists of oscillations in the 4-8 cycles per second band. Alpha activity consists of oscillations in the 8-12 cycles per second band. Beta activity consists of oscillations in the 15-25 cycles per second band while Gamma activity occurs in the 35-45 cycles per second band. Changes in these brain activities can be compared before and after mindfulness training.
In today’s Research News article “Emotion Self-Regulation in Neurotic Students: A Pilot Mindfulness-Based Intervention to Assess Its Effectiveness through Brain Signals and Behavioral Data.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9002961/ ) Izhar and colleagues recruited college women who had been identified as having neuroticism. In phase 1 they had their electroencephalogram (EEG) recorded while viewing negative emotion eliciting film clips followed by a measure of cognitive response inhibition. In phase 2 they were provided with an 6-week breathing-based mindfulness training and had them practice it for at least 5 minutes daily. Before and after training they were measured for emotions, anxiety, depression, emotion regulation, and mindfulness. In phase 3 the EEG recording was repeated.
They found that after the mindfulness training the students had significant reductions in judgement and non-reactivity to inner experiences, anxiety, perceived stress, and the maladaptive emotion regulation strategy of suppression. In addition, after mindfulness training the students’ EEGs had significant increases in resting alpha and theta rhythms and decreases in delta rhythms.
These data suggest that mindfulness training improves the emotional state and emotion regulation in neurotic college women in part by altering brain activity. This further suggests that mindfulness training should be effective in improving the mental health of young women with neuroticism.
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Izhar, L. I., Babiker, A., Rizki, E. E., Lu, C. K., & Abdul Rahman, M. (2022). Emotion Self-Regulation in Neurotic Students: A Pilot Mindfulness-Based Intervention to Assess Its Effectiveness through Brain Signals and Behavioral Data. Sensors (Basel, Switzerland), 22(7), 2703. https://doi.org/10.3390/s22072703
Neuroticism has recently received increased attention in the psychology field due to the finding of high implications of neuroticism on an individual’s life and broader public health. This study aims to investigate the effect of a brief 6-week breathing-based mindfulness intervention (BMI) on undergraduate neurotic students’ emotion regulation. We acquired data of their psychological states, physiological changes, and electroencephalogram (EEG), before and after BMI, in resting states and tasks. Through behavioral analysis, we found the students’ anxiety and stress levels significantly reduced after BMI, with p-values of 0.013 and 0.027, respectively. Furthermore, a significant difference between students in emotion regulation strategy, that is, suppression, was also shown. The EEG analysis demonstrated significant differences between students before and after MI in resting states and tasks. Fp1 and O2 channels were identified as the most significant channels in evaluating the effect of BMI. The potential of these channels for classifying (single-channel-based) before and after BMI conditions during eyes-opened and eyes-closed baseline trials were displayed by a good performance in terms of accuracy (~77%), sensitivity (76–80%), specificity (73–77%), and area-under-the-curve (AUC) (0.66–0.8) obtained by k-nearest neighbor (KNN) and support vector machine (SVM) algorithms. Mindfulness can thus improve the self-regulation of the emotional state of neurotic students based on the psychometric and electrophysiological analyses conducted in this study.