Psykoterapi / Hvordan virker MindSight/ Mindfulness

Hvordan virker MindSight / Mindfulness

Der er meget ny forskning i hvorfor og hvordan Mindfulness kan føre til resultater.
Hvordan det at meditere kan ændre på min hjerne, og hvordan Mindfulness anvendt i psykoterapi kan skabe varige forandringer.
Her er et par af de nyeste artikler, desværre på engelsk:

How Does Mindfulness Change the Brain?

( Dr. Ruth Buczynski, )


Mindfulness has been shown to be effective in relieving symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even chronic pain. 

But how does that happen?

Dr. Britta Hölzel and her team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital conducted a study to look at the impact of an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program on the brains of patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

Now GAD can be a truly debilitating condition that impairs daily functioning. Patients diagnosed with GAD typically have difficulty regulating their emotions and are often plagued by chronic and persistent worry.

For this investigation, researchers recruited 26 patients diagnosed with GAD to participate in the MRI study. They randomly assigned half to the MBSR group and half to a stress management education program as a control. The researchers also recruited 26 demographically matched, healthy individuals for baseline comparisons.


At the beginning of the study, all of the participants were scanned using fMRI. During the scan, participants viewed photographs and labeled the facial expressions within each as angry, happy, or neutral.


This baseline comparison revealed that patients with GAD showed higher amygdala activation than the healthy participants when viewing neutral, not happy faces. The amygdala, as we know, is the part of the brain that’s associated with fear responses.


The researchers took this to mean that the brains of GAD patients at the beginning of the study reacted more strongly to ambiguous stimuli than the brains of healthy participants.


After GAD participants completed their respective programs – either the MBSR training or the stress management course – they completed several self-reported measures of anxiety and stress and also participated in another round of fMRI scans. 

Here the researchers noted some interesting changes.


Participants from both the MBSR and stress management groupsreported improvement in their symptoms following their trainings. And post-study fMRI scans of both groups showed decreases in activation of amygdala in response to neutral images.

But what’s interesting is that the patients who received mindfulness training also showed increases in connectivity between the amygdala and several regions of the brain that are responsible for successful emotional regulation.


So what can we conclude?

This study has identified particular regions in the brain that seem to correlate with the symptom improvement associated with mindfulness training. Remember, correlation does not imply causation, so we need to be cautious when interpreting the results.

In addition, this study was conducted with a small sample size. I would love to see it replicated with a larger group.

But I do think the findings are promising. If you’re curious to learn more about this, you can find the study in NeuroImage: Clinical, volume 2.


Can Mindfulness Change the Anxious Brain?

( Dr. Ruth Buczynski, )


What helps with anxiety?

Anxiety disorders represent the most common mental disorders experienced by Americans. These can range from PTSD to common phobias, and they wreak havoc in a person’s day-to-day life.


A team of researchers led by David Creswell, PhD at Carnegie Mellon University recently wanted to find out what impact mindfulness practice could have on the anxious brain


To design their study, Creswell and his team recruited participants from a population that’s under a lot of stress – job seekers.

Now we know that when stress goes untreated, it can become chronic and contribute to anxiety and depression.


Not only that, but high levels of stress hormones released into the body also increase the risk of serious health concerns including a weakened immune system, digestive problems, and heart disease, just to name a few.


Creswell randomized 35 job-seeking adults into either a 3-day intensive mindfulness retreat or 3-day relaxation program that did not include mindfulness training.


All of the participants received a 5-minute resting brain scan both before and after their program. In addition, researchers took blood samples from each of the participants at the beginning of the study and again at a 4-month follow-up.


Creswell and his team were looking specifically at brain network connectivity patterns. They wanted to know if mindfulness could change the resting-state functional connectivity of brain networks that are associated with mind-wandering and executive control. 

Creswell and his team hypothesized that changes in these networks could improve emotion regulation, stress resilience and stress-related health outcomes.


The team also wanted to see what impact mindfulness training could have on a particular inflammatory health biomarker known as Interleukin-6 (IL-6). This biomarker is known to be elevated in high-stress populations and is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and even death.



So what did they find?

Brain scans of the participants who received the mindfulness training intervention showed increased connectivity in the resting default mode network in areas of the brain associated with attention and executive control.


The researchers did not see similar results in the scans of participants who received only the relaxation training.

In addition, the participants who received training in mindfulness showed reduced IL-6 levels at the 4-month follow-up.


Creswell and his team believe that these changes in brain structure and activity following mindfulness meditation could open the door to helping patients improve executive function, stress resilience, and improved physical health.


Now we do need to be cautious in interpreting these results too broadly. This study was conducted with a small sample of participants, all of whom were experiencing a very specific type of stress.


But it is encouraging to read studies like this that open a window into brain changes associated with mindfulness meditation.

The complete study was published online by Biological Psychiatry, January, 2016.



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