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Biol Psychol. 2013 Apr;93(1):105-13. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2013.01.016. Epub 2013 Feb 11.

Approaching dysphoric mood: state-effects of mindfulness meditation on frontal brain asymmetry.

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Institute of Psychology, Department of Clinical Psychology, Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen, Gartenstr. 29, 72074 Tübingen, Germany.


Meditation-based interventions reduce the relapse risk in recurrently depressed patients. Randomized trials utilizing neurophysiologic outcome measures, however, have yielded inconsistent results with regard to a prophylactic effect. Although frontal brain asymmetry, assessed through electroencephalographic (EEG) alpha activity (8-13 Hz), is indicative of approach vs. withdrawal-related response dispositions and represents a vulnerability marker of depression, clinical trials have provided mixed results as to whether meditation has beneficial effects on alpha asymmetry. Inconsistencies might have arisen since such trials relied on resting-state recordings, instead of active paradigms under challenge, as suggested by contemporary notions of alpha asymmetry. We examined two groups of remitted, recurrently depressed females. In a "mindfulness support group", EEG was recorded during neutral rest, and rest following a negative mood induction. Subsequently, participants received initial meditation instructions. EEG was then obtained during an active period of guided mindfulness meditation and rest following the active period. In a "rumination challenge group", EEG was obtained during the same resting conditions, whereas in the active period, initial meditation instructions were followed by a rumination challenge. A significant shift in mid-frontal asymmetry, yielding a pattern indicative of approach motivation, was observed in the mindfulness support group, specifically during the meditation period. This indicates that mindfulness meditation may have a transient beneficial effect, which enables patients to take an approach-related motivational stance, particularly under circumstances of risk.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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