Meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation, is one of the most popular Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) therapies for alleviating emotional stress, depression and anxiety that are either primary, or secondary to another health condition. While standardized meditation-based treatment packages like Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) have reliably shown sustained improvements in emotional disturbances and wellbeing, they contain so many different components and practices that the active ingredient cannot be ascertained. Mindfulness is comprised of 1) an attention regulation component, which is thought to be cultivated with focused awareness practice, and 2) an accepting, non-judgmental mental stance, which is thought to be cultivated through open-monitoring practice. This project aims to create separate practice criteria for attention and acceptance-focused meditations, compare their clinical efficacy and investigate their separate mechanisms of action in individuals with clinically significant levels of persistent negative affect and depression. The clinical benefit and mechanism of action of focused awareness (FA) vs open-monitoring (OM) vs a no-treatment (waitlist) control will be examined with a three- armed randomized control trial of these eight week interventions. Outcome variables include negative affect (depression, anxiety, stress) and wellbeing. Hypothesized mediating processes include objectively measured attention, emotion regulation and the basic wakefulness on which they depend. In addition to the research application, the training program includes formal education in 1) meditation-based clinical trials methodology and affective disorders, 2) psychophysiological measurement of attention, emotion, sleep propensity and 3) biostatistical methods related to treatment studies. This training prepares me to meet my long-term objective of becoming an independent patient- oriented researcher. Through formal didactic instruction and strong mentoring from experienced investigators who are leaders in the field, I will develop the requisite tools to shed light on which meditation practices are the most helpful for emotional disturbances and by what cognitive and neurophysiological mechanisms.

Public Health Relevance

This application addresses NCCAM's request for research that investigates the neuropsychological mechanisms underlying mind-body therapies, and for precise criteria and better delineation of meditation practices. By operationally defining the two components and practices that comprise mindfulness meditation, this project will help identify the active ingredients of a popular and successful CAM therapy. By providing knowledge about the effects and benefits of different meditation practices, this project will help clinicians tailor their treatment to better fit the needs of different patients.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZAT1-PK (16))
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Glowa, John R
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Brown University
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Britton, Willoughby B; Davis, Jake H; Loucks, Eric B et al. (2017) Dismantling Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy: Creation and validation of 8-week focused attention and open monitoring interventions within a 3-armed randomized controlled trial. Behav Res Ther :
Rojiani, Rahil; Santoyo, Juan F; Rahrig, Hadley et al. (2017) Women Benefit More Than Men in Response to College-based Meditation Training. Front Psychol 8:551
Loucks, Eric B; Britton, Willoughby B; Howe, Chanelle J et al. (2015) Positive Associations of Dispositional Mindfulness with Cardiovascular Health: the New England Family Study. Int J Behav Med 22:540-50
Britton, Willoughby B; Lepp, Nathaniel E; Niles, Halsey F et al. (2014) A randomized controlled pilot trial of classroom-based mindfulness meditation compared to an active control condition in sixth-grade children. J Sch Psychol 52:263-78
Lindahl, Jared R; Kaplan, Christopher T; Winget, Evan M et al. (2014) A phenomenology of meditation-induced light experiences: traditional buddhist and neurobiological perspectives. Front Psychol 4:973
Britton, Willoughby B; Lindahl, Jared R; Cahn, B Rael et al. (2014) Awakening is not a metaphor: the effects of Buddhist meditation practices on basic wakefulness. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1307:64-81
Capecelatro, Maria R; Sacchet, Matthew D; Hitchcock, Peter F et al. (2013) Major depression duration reduces appetitive word use: an elaborated verbal recall of emotional photographs. J Psychiatr Res 47:809-15
de Dios, Marcel A; Herman, Debra S; Britton, Willoughby B et al. (2012) Motivational and mindfulness intervention for young adult female marijuana users. J Subst Abuse Treat 42:56-64
Britton, Willoughby B; Shahar, Ben; Szepsenwol, Ohad et al. (2012) Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy improves emotional reactivity to social stress: results from a randomized controlled trial. Behav Ther 43:365-80
van Vugt, Marieke Karlijn; Hitchcock, Peter; Shahar, Ben et al. (2012) The effects of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on affective memory recall dynamics in depression: a mechanistic model of rumination. Front Hum Neurosci 6:257

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