Using fNIRS to Examine Neural Mechanisms of Change Associated with Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Stress and Trauma: Results of a Pilot Study for Women

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Abstract

Objectives: This research aimed to examine the mechanisms of change associated with mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) and test the feasibility of using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to objectively measure MBI-responsive neuro-cognitive functions impaired by stress and trauma: attentional control (AC), emotional regulation (ER), and working memory (WM). Methods: fNIRS data were collected from 31 female participants during AC, ER, and WM cognitive tasks. Measurements were conducted at baseline and follow-up. Half of participants (n = 16) engaged in a 6-week MBI, whereas the active control group (n = 15) did not. fNIRS measures blood oxygenation (HbO) and deoxygenation (HbR) in specific brain regions as changes in activation of neural networks. Results: After using general linear modeling to isolate the hemodynamic response in the fNIRS data, group-level statistical analyses revealed significant (p ≤.05) changes among the MBI group for AC tasks in the frontopolar area (FP), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and premotor cortex (PMC); these changes were accompanied by significant improvements in AC performances. Among the control group, there was a significant decline in AC task performance and significant decreased OFC activation. Among the MBI group, there were also significant changes in FP and OFC activation during ER tasks and significant changes in OFC and PMC activation during WM tasks. Performance changes for ER and WM tasks were mixed. Conclusions: fNIRS is a viable means of measuring MBI-related changes in neuro-cognitive activity and MBIs yield significant changes in attentional performance and activation of FP, OFC, and PMC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2295-2310
Number of pages16
JournalMindfulness
Volume12
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Keywords

  • Attention
  • Cognition
  • Emotional regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Stress
  • Trauma
  • Working memory
  • fNIRS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology

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