Hoe werkt mindfulness?

Wat weten we over hoe mindfulness werkt?

Er is heel veel wetenschappelijk onderzoek gedaan naar mindfulness. Er vinden momenteel meer dan 600 wetenschappelijke onderzoeken per jaar plaats. We weten dat het werkt. We hebben ideeën over hoe het werkt. Maar het is goed om je te realiseren dat we uiteindelijk meer niet weten dan dat we wel weten. Maar toch weten we wel iets.

Nieuwe inzichten

Op de site van AMRA (American Mindfulness Research Association) kun je je aanmelden voor een maandelijkse nieuwsbrief waarin nieuwe onderzoeken worden gepresenteerd. Hun site bevat een schat aan informatie over wetenschappelijk onderzoek naar mindfulness.

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Veranderingen in ons brein

Rinske Gotink and her colleagues found 30 relevant studies that used MRI or fMRI brain imaging to look at the effects of mindfulness training on brain structure and function, including 13 randomly controlled trials. Associated brain changes, in terms of activity levels and volume and connectivity changes, have been reported in the prefrontal cortex (a region associated with conscious decision making and emotional regulation and other functions), the insula (which represents internal body states among other things), the cingulate cortex (decision making), the hippocampus (memory) and the amygdala (emotion). Based on what we know about the function of these brain regions, Gotink’s team said these changes appear to be consistent with the idea that mindfulness helps your brain regulate your emotions.

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Samenvatting van een wetenschappelijk artikel

How Does Mindfulness Meditation Work? Proposing Mechanisms of Action From a Conceptual and Neural Perspective

 

Britta K. Hölzel, Sara W. Lazar, Tim Gard, Zev Schuman-Olivier, David R. Vago, Ulrich Ott

Abstract
Cultivation of mindfulness, the nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment, produces beneficial effects on well-being and ameliorates psychiatric and stress-related symptoms. Mindfulness meditation has therefore increasingly been incorporated into psychotherapeutic interventions.

Although the number of publications in the field has sharply increased over the last two decades, there is a paucity of theoretical reviews that integrate the existing literature into a comprehensive theoretical framework.

In this article, we explore several components through which mindfulness meditation exerts its effects:

(a) attention regulation,

(b) body awareness,

(c) emotion regulation (including reappraisal and exposure, extinction, and reconsolidation), and

(d) change in perspective on the self.

Recent empirical research, including practitioners’ self-reports and experimental data, provides evidence supporting these mechanisms. Functional and structural neuroimaging studies have begun to explore the neuroscientific processes underlying these components. Evidence suggests that mindfulness practice is associated with neuroplastic changes in the anterior cingulate cortex, insula, temporo-parietal junction, fronto-limbic network, and default mode network structures.

The authors suggest that the mechanisms described here work synergistically, establishing a process of enhanced self-regulation. Differentiating between these components seems useful to guide future basic research and to specifically target areas of development in the treatment of psychological disorders.

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