Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Mindfulness-based interventions are effective for reducing depressive symptoms. However, the psychological and neural mechanisms are unclear. This study examined which facets of trait mindfulness offer protection against negative bias and rumination, which are key risk factors for depression. Nineteen male volunteers completed a 2-day functional magnetic resonance imaging study. One day utilized a stress-induction task and the other day utilized a mindful breathing task. An emotional inhibition task was used to measure neural and behavioral changes related to state negative bias, defined by poorer performance in inhibiting negative relative to neutral stimuli. Associations among trait mindfulness [measured by the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ)], trait rumination, and negative bias were examined. Non-reactivity scores on the FFMQ correlated negatively with rumination and negative bias following the stress induction. Non-reactivity was inversely correlated with insula activation during inhibition to negative stimuli after the mindful breathing task. Our results suggest non-reactivity to inner experience is the key facet of mindfulness that protects individuals from psychological risk for depression. Based on these results, mindfulness could reduce vulnerability to depression in at least two ways: (i) by buffering against trait rumination and negative bias and (ii) by reducing automatic emotional responding via the insula.
Paul, Natalie A.; Stanton, Steven J.; Greeson, Jeffrey M.; Smoski, Moria J.; and Wang, Lihong, "Psychological and neural mechanisms of trait mindfulness in reducing depression vulnerability" (2013). Faculty Scholarship for the College of Science & Mathematics. 76.