Home practice yields improvements in bipolar patients

Perich, T., et al. (2013). The association between meditation practice and treatment outcome in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for bipolar disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 51 (7), 338–343.

From the Abstract: This study aimed to examine the impact of quantity of mindfulness meditation practice on the outcome of psychiatric symptoms following Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for those diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Meditation homework was collected at the beginning of each session for the MBCT program to assess quantity of meditation practice.

… A greater number of days meditated during the 8-week MBCT program was related to lower depression scores at 12-month follow-up, and there was evidence to suggest that mindfulness meditation practice was associated with improvements in depression and anxiety symptoms if a certain minimum amount (3 times a week or more) was practiced weekly throughout the 8-week MBCT program.

Reduces depressive symptoms in women diagnosed with fibromyalgia

Parra-Delgade, M., & Latorre-Postigo, J. M. (2013). Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia: A Randomised Trial. Cognitive Therapy and Research. Online DOI: 10.1007/s10608-013-9538-z.   

Abstract: Fibromyalgia syndrome has a strong clinical and social impact affecting the personal, family and working life of the sufferer. The presence of depressive symptoms is associated with decreased quality of life and an increase in the intensity of pain. The aim of this study is to demonstrate the effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) in reducing the impact of fibromyalgia, the depressive symptoms and the intensity of pain in women with fibromyalgia.

An experimental pre-post treatment design with a 3-month follow-up was carried out. Female patients (N = 33) were randomised to MBCT or to a control group condition. MBCT is an 8-week group intervention. … Substantial differences were found in the reduction of the impact of fibromyalgia after treatment and in the decrease in depressive symptoms decrease in the follow-up. A slight decrease was observed in intensity of pain in different body areas although there were no significant differences between the groups.

The study findings suggest that depressive symptoms and the impact of the illness were reduced in the MBCT group of women diagnosed with fibromyalgia. These changes were maintained during the 3-month follow up. No significant changes were found in the reduction of intensity of pain. The limitations of this study were analysed and possible improvements for future research were considered.

MBCT prevents depression relapse/recurrence

Ma, H.S., & Teasdale, J.D. (2004). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression: Replication and Exploration of Differential Relapse Prevention Effects. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72 (1), 31–40. Full text.

From the Abstract: Recovered recurrently depressed patients were randomized to treatment as usual (TAU) or TAU plus mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Replicating previous findings, MBCT reduced relapse from 78% to 36% in 55 patients with 3 or more previous episodes; but in 18 patients with only 2 (recent) episodes corresponding figures were 20% and 50%. MBCT was most effective in preventing relapses not preceded by life events. Relapses were more often associated with significant life events in the 2-episode group. This group also reported less childhood adversity and later first depression onset than the 3-or-more-episode group, suggesting that these groups represented distinct populations.

MBCT is an effective and efficient way to prevent relapse/recurrence in recovered depressed patients with 3 or more previous episodes.

Detection and modulation of mind-wandering

Kerr, C.E., et al. (2013). Mindfulness starts with the body: somatosensory attention and top-down modulation of cortical alpha rhythms in mindfulness meditation. Frontiers of Human Neuroscience, 7(12). Epublished Feb 13.

Abstract: Using a common set of mindfulness exercises, mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) have been shown to reduce distress in chronic pain and decrease risk of depression relapse. These standardized mindfulness (ST-Mindfulness) practices predominantly require attending to breath and body sensations.

Here, we offer a novel view of ST-Mindfulness’s somatic focus as a form of training for optimizing attentional modulation of 7-14 Hz alpha rhythms that play a key role in filtering inputs to primary sensory neocortex and organizing the flow of sensory information in the brain.

In support of the framework, we describe our previous finding that ST-Mindfulness enhanced attentional regulation of alpha in primary somatosensory cortex (SI). The framework allows us to make several predictions. In chronic pain, we predict somatic attention in ST-Mindfulness “de-biases” alpha in SI, freeing up pain-focused attentional resources. In depression relapse, we predict ST-Mindfulness’s somatic attention competes with internally focused rumination, as internally focused cognitive processes (including working memory) rely on alpha filtering of sensory input.

Our computational model predicts ST-Mindfulness enhances top-down modulation of alpha by facilitating precise alterations in timing and efficacy of SI thalamocortical inputs. We conclude by considering how the framework aligns with Buddhist teachings that mindfulness starts with “mindfulness of the body.”

Translating this theory into neurophysiology, we hypothesize that with its somatic focus, mindfulness’ top-down alpha rhythm modulation in SI enhances gain control which, in turn, sensitizes practitioners to better detect and regulate when the mind wanders from its somatic focus. This enhanced regulation of somatic mind-wandering may be an important early stage of mindfulness training that leads to enhanced cognitive regulation and metacognition.