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Impact of Mental Training of Attention and Emotion Regulation on Brain and Behavior: Implications for Neuroplasticity, Well-Being and Mindfulness Psychotherapy Research

Periodic Report Summary 2 - BRAINANDMINDFULNESS (Impact of Mental Training of Attention and Emotion Regulation on Brain and Behavior: Implications for Neuroplasticity, Well-Being and Mindfulness Psychotherapy Research.)

Mindfulness-based therapy has become an increasingly popular treatment to reduce stress, increase well-being and prevent relapse in depression. A key component of these therapies includes mindfulness practice that intends to train attention to detect and regulate afflictive cognitive and emotional patterns. Beyond its therapeutic application, the empirical study of mindfulness practice also represents a promising tool to understand practices that intentionally cultivate present-centeredness and openness to experience. Despite its clinical efficacy, little remains known about its means of action. Antithetic to this mode of experiential self-focus are states akin to depression, that are conducive of biased attention toward negativity, biased thoughts and rumination, and dysfunctional self schemas. The proposed research aims at implementing an innovative framework to scientifically investigate the experiential, cognitive, and neural processes underlining mindfulness practice building on the current neurocognitive understanding of the functional and anatomical architecture of cognitive control, and depression. To identify these mechanisms, this project aims to use paradigms from cognitive, and affective neuroscience (MEG, intracortical EEG, fMRI) to measure the training and plasticity of emotion regulation and cognitive control, and their effect on automatic, self-related affective processes. Using a cross-sectional design (Study 1), this project aims to compare participants with trait differences in experiential self-focus mode. Using a longitudinal design (Study 2), this project aims to explore mindfulness-practice training’s effect using a standard mindfulness-based intervention and an active control intervention. So far we have piloted the tasks for Study 1 and Study 2. We are currently halfway through the data collection of Study 1. We tested the meditation intervention using a feasibility pilot study. Data collection for Study 2 should start in Spring 2018.