Mindfulness Meditation Training and Executive Control Network Resting State Functional Connectivity: A Randomized Controlled Trial.



Mindfulness meditation training has been previously shown to enhance behavioral measures of executive control (e.g., attention, working memory, cognitive control), but the neural mechanisms underlying these improvements are largely unknown. Here, we test whether mindfulness training interventions foster executive control by strengthening functional connections between dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC)-a hub of the executive control network-and frontoparietal regions that coordinate executive function.


Thirty-five adults with elevated levels of psychological distress participated in a 3-day randomized controlled trial of intensive mindfulness meditation or relaxation training. Participants completed a resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging scan before and after the intervention. We tested whether mindfulness meditation training increased resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) between dlPFC and frontoparietal control network regions.


Left dlPFC showed increased connectivity to the right inferior frontal gyrus (T = 3.74), right middle frontal gyrus (MFG) (T = 3.98), right supplementary eye field (T = 4.29), right parietal cortex (T = 4.44), and left middle temporal gyrus (T = 3.97, all p < .05) after mindfulness training relative to the relaxation control. Right dlPFC showed increased connectivity to right MFG (T = 4.97, p < .05).


We report that mindfulness training increases rsFC between dlPFC and dorsal network (superior parietal lobule, supplementary eye field, MFG) and ventral network (right IFG, middle temporal/angular gyrus) regions. These findings extend previous work showing increased functional connectivity among brain regions associated with executive function during active meditation by identifying specific neural circuits in which rsFC is enhanced by a mindfulness intervention in individuals with high levels of psychological distress.


Treating fibromyalgia with mindfulness-based stress reduction: results from a 3-armed randomized controlled trial.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a structured 8-week group program teaching mindfulness meditation and mindful yoga exercises. MBSR aims to help participants develop nonjudgmental awareness of moment-to-moment experience. Fibromyalgia is a clinical syndrome with chronic pain, fatigue, and insomnia as major symptoms. Efficacy of MBSR for enhanced well-being of fibromyalgia patients was investigated in a 3-armed trial, which was a follow-up to an earlier quasi-randomized investigation. A total of 177 female patients were randomized to one of the following: (1) MBSR, (2) an active control procedure controlling for nonspecific effects of MBSR, or (3) a wait list. The major outcome was health-related quality of life (HRQoL) 2 months post-treatment. Secondary outcomes were disorder-specific quality of life, depression, pain, anxiety, somatic complaints, and a proposed index of mindfulness. Of the patients, 82% completed the study. There were no significant differences between groups on primary outcome, but patients overall improved in HRQoL at short-term follow-up (P=0.004). Post hoc analyses showed that only MBSR manifested a significant pre-to-post-intervention improvement in HRQoL (P=0.02). Furthermore, multivariate analysis of secondary measures indicated modest benefits for MBSR patients. MBSR yielded significant pre-to-post-intervention improvements in 6 of 8 secondary outcome variables, the active control in 3, and the wait list in 2. In conclusion, primary outcome analyses did not support the efficacy of MBSR in fibromyalgia, although patients in the MBSR arm appeared to benefit most. Effect sizes were small compared to the earlier, quasi-randomized investigation. Several methodological aspects are discussed, e.g., patient burden, treatment preference and motivation, that may provide explanations for differences. In a 3-armed randomized controlled trial in female patients suffering from fibromyalgia, patients benefited modestly from a mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention.



Acceptance and commitment therapy universal prevention program for adolescents: a feasibility study

There is a need to prevent anxiety and depression in young people and mindfulness contains important emotion regulation strategies. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), a mindfulness-based therapy, has yet to be evaluated as a prevention program, but has demonstrated an ability to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in adult and adolescent populations. This study examines the feasibility of using an ACT-based prevention program in a sample of year 10 (aged 14–16 years) high school students from Sydney, Australia.


Participants were allocated to either their usual classes or to the ACT-based intervention. Participants were followed for a period of 5 months post-intervention and completed the Flourishing Scale, Depression Anxiety Stress Scale, and a program evaluation questionnaire. Analyses were completed using intention-to-treat mixed models for repeated measures.


The results indicated that the intervention was acceptable to students and feasible to administer in a school setting. There were no statistically significant differences between the conditions, likely due to the small sample size (N = 48). However, between-group effect sizes demonstrated small to large differences for baseline to post-intervention mean scores and medium to large differences for baseline to follow-up mean scores, all favouring the ACT-based condition.


The results suggest that an ACT-based school program has potential as a universal prevention program and merits further investigation in a larger trial.



Mindfulness-based stress reduction for people with multiple sclerosis – a feasibility randomised controlled trial

BMC Neurol. 2017; 17: 94.
Published online 2017 May 16. doi:  10.1186/s12883-017-0880-8


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a stressful condition. Mental health comorbidity is common. Stress can increase the risk of depression, reduce quality of life (QOL), and possibly exacerbate disease activity in MS. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) may help, but has been little studied in MS, particularly among more disabled individuals.


The objective of this study was to test the feasibility and likely effectiveness of a standard MBSR course for people with MS. Participant eligibility included: age > 18, any type of MS, an Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) </= 7.0. Participants received either MBSR or wait-list control. Outcome measures were collected at baseline, post-intervention, and three-months later. Primary outcomes were perceived stress and QOL. Secondary outcomes were common MS symptoms, mindfulness, and self-compassion.


Fifty participants were recruited and randomised (25 per group). Trial retention and outcome measure completion rates were 90% at post-intervention, and 88% at 3 months. Sixty percent of participants completed the course. Immediately post-MBSR, perceived stress improved with a large effect size (ES 0.93; p < 0.01), compared to very small beneficial effects on QOL (ES 0.17; p = 0.48). Depression (ES 1.35; p < 0.05), positive affect (ES 0.87; p = 0.13), anxiety (ES 0.85; p = 0.05), and self-compassion (ES 0.80; p < 0.01) also improved with large effect sizes. At three-months post-MBSR (study endpoint) improvements in perceived stress were diminished to a small effect size (ES 0.26; p = 0.39), were negligible for QOL (ES 0.08; p = 0.71), but were large for mindfulness (ES 1.13; p < 0.001), positive affect (ES 0.90; p = 0.54), self-compassion (ES 0.83; p < 0.05), anxiety (ES 0.82; p = 0.15), and prospective memory (ES 0.81; p < 0.05).


Recruitment, retention, and data collection demonstrate that a RCT of MBSR is feasible for people with MS. Trends towards improved outcomes suggest that a larger definitive RCT may be warranted. However, optimisation changes may be required to render more stable the beneficial treatment effects on stress and depression.


Depress Anxiety. 2016 Apr;33(4):289-99. doi: 10.1002/da.22481.

King AP1,2, Block SR1,2,3, Sripada RK2,4, Rauch S5, Giardino N2, Favorite T1,2,6, Angstadt M2, Kessler D2, Welsh R1,7, Liberzon I1,2,3.

Increased connectivity between DMN and executive control regions following mindfulness training could underlie increased capacity for volitional shifting of attention. The increased PCC-DLPFC rsFC following MBET was related to PTSD symptom improvement, pointing to a potential therapeutic mechanism of mindfulness-based therapies.