Mindfulness starts with the body: somatosensory attention and top-down modulation of cortical alpha rhythms in mindfulness meditation

Studie som nevner at Mindfulness øker alpha-bølger i hjernen, som bidrar til reduksjon i smerte.


Using a common set of mindfulness exercises, mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) have been shown to reduce distress in chronic pain and decrease risk of depression relapse. These standardized mindfulness (ST-Mindfulness) practices predominantly require attending to breath and body sensations.

Based on multiple randomized clinical trials, there is good evidence for the efficacy of these ST-Mindfulness programs for preventing mood disorders in people at high risk of depression (Teasdale et al., 2000a,bMa and Teasdale, 2004Segal et al., 2010Fjorback et al., 2011Piet and Hougaard, 2011), improving mood and quality of life in chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia (Grossman et al., 2007Sephton et al., 2007Schmidt et al., 2011) and low-back pain (Morone et al., 2008a,b), in chronic functional disorders such as IBS (Gaylord et al., 2011) and in challenging medical illnesses, including multiple sclerosis (Grossman et al., 2010) and cancer (Speca et al., 2000). ST-Mindfulness has also been shown to decrease stress in healthy people undergoing difficult life situations (Cohen-Katz et al., 2005), such as caring for a loved-one with Alzheimer’s disease (Epstein-Lubow et al., 2006).

Numerous behavioral and neural mechanisms have been proposed to explain these positive outcomes. Proposed mechanisms include changes in neural networks underlying emotion regulation (Holzel et al., 2008), illustrated by findings showing decreased amygdala response after ST-Mindfulness in social anxiety patients exposed to socially threatening stimuli (Goldin and Gross, 2010). Other neural mechanisms highlighted in recent reviews include changes in self-processing (Vago and Silbersweig, 2012) based on multiple studies including a report showing decreases in activation in midline cortical areas used in self-related processing in ST-Mindfulness trained subjects (Farb et al., 2007).

In the first 2 weeks of the 8-week ST-Mindfulness sequence, all formal practice is devoted to a meditative body scan practice of “moving a focused spotlight of attention from one part of the body to another.” Through this exercise, practitioners are said to learn to feel (1) how to control the attentional spotlight even when focusing on painful, aversive sensations (2) how even familiar body sensations change and fluctuate from moment to moment.

In the last 5–6 weeks of class, participants continue to use embodied practices, especially sitting meditation focused on sensations of breathing. These embodied practices are said to teach practitioners (1) how to directlyfeel when the mind has wandered from its sensory focus (2) how to use an intimate familiarity with the fluctuations of sensations of breathing (such as the up and down flow of the breath) as a template for regarding the arising and passing of distressing, aversive thoughts as “mental events” rather than as “facts or central parts of their identity.”

Specifically, we propose that body-focused attentional practice in ST-Mindfulness enhances localized attentional control over the 7–14 Hz alpha rhythm that is thought to play a key role in regulating sensory input to sensory neocortex and in enhancing signal-to-noise properties across the neocortex. Beginning with the enhanced modulation of localized alpha rhythms trained in localized somatic attention practices such as the body-scan, and then proceeding through the 8-week sequence to learn broader modulation of entire sensory modalities (e.g., “whole body attention”) practitioners train in filtering and prioritizing the flow of information through the brain.

In chronic pain situations, nearly all studies of ST-Mindfulness show relief of pain-related distress and increased mood.


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