Bootcamp on Mechanisms of Mindfulness

2017.05.10 | Anne-Mette Pedersen

Date Thu 02 Nov
Time 09:30 16:00
Location IMC Meeting Room, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 4, Building 1483-312
Registration has closed

Mindfulness based interventions (MBIs) are becoming increasingly popular in clinical and non-clinical settings. The last two decades have witnessed mounting research in the field and the implementation of MBIs in various healthcare, educational and organisational settings. Despite this progress, research advances are sorely needed in studying the mechanisms of change. The study of therapeutic mechanisms of change is complex and perplexing, yet important as the understanding of mechanisms of change is the path toward improved treatment. In this Bootcamp, we will discuss the promise of MBIs, along with the methodological challenges in measuring and identifying the mechanisms of change. 

The bootcamp will present an introduction to the field and a set of interdisciplinary talks around these themes. There will opportunity for questions and discussion. 



Anne Maj van der Velden, Dept. of Clinical Medicine

Christine Parsons, Dept. of Clinical Medicine and IMC





9.30-10.00: Introduction to the day and the field: Anne Maj van der Velden, IMC, Aarhus University

10.00-10.15: Home practice in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy: Dr. Christine Parsons, IMC, Aarhus University

10.15-11.15: Does mindfulness actually ‘change the brain’?: Dr. Katie Young, Anxiety and Depression Research Center, UCLA.

11.15-11.30 COFFEE BREAK

11.30-12.30: Effects of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy on brain mechanisms of interoceptive awareness and rumination in depression: a longitudinal randomized controlled trial with fMRI: Dr.Gaelle Desbordes, Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital-Harvard.  

12.30-13.30 LUNCH

13.30-14.30 Mechanisms of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy in individuals with suicidal risk and recurrent depression: Dr. Bergljot Gjelsvik, Oxford Mindfulness Centre, University of Oxford.

14.30-15.00 Mechanisms of mindfulness from a neurophenomological perspective: Professor Andreas Roepstorff, IMC, Aarhus University


15.15- 16.00 Panel Discussion



Katie Young, Anxiety and Depression Research Center, UCLA

Does mindfulness actually ‘change the brain’? 

The proliferation of neuroscientific research into mindfulness over the past decade, alongside widespread media coverage, has led to the widely held belief that mindfulness can ‘change the brain’. However, to date there are still relatively few well-controlled studies systematically investigating the impact of mindfulness-based interventions on brain functioning. In this talk, I will present results from a recent systematic review in which we found that the most consistent effect of mindfulness interventions was on activity within the insula, a region implicated in interoceptive awareness. I will discuss the heterogeneity of effects observed across studies included in our review and highlight strategies to promote greater consistency within future work. I will also compare these effects with findings from my current work investigating changes in neural functioning associated with other psychological treatments (cognitive behavioural therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy) to highlight potential general and specific neural mechanisms of psychological interventions.


Gaelle Desbordes, Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital -Harvard

Effects of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) on brain mechanisms of interoceptive awareness and rumination in depression: a longitudinal randomized controlled trial with fMRI 

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is an 8-week group intervention that combines mindfulness practice with elements of Cognitive Behavior Therapy. MBCT has proven effective against depression, both in preventing relapse and in reducing current depressive symptoms, on par with antidepressant medication. Depression is associated with maladaptive rumination—a persistence of negative, self-focused mind states. The MBCT framework holds that ruminative tendencies can be remediated by using mindfulness practice to facilitate an earlier recognition of unpleasant mind states and internal feelings that usually trigger rumination, thereby enabling disengagement from the subsequent downward spiral into negative moods typical of depression. Previous studies suggest that mindfulness-based interventions have measurable effects on brain structure and function, especially in brain regions known to be dysfunctional in depression. However, the specific mechanisms of action of MBCT in depression are currently unknown. In this talk I will present the study design and hypotheses for an ongoing fMRI study of MBCT in participants with current depressive symptoms.


Bergljot Gjelsvik, Oxford Mindfulness Centre, University of Oxford

Mechanisms of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) in individuals with suicidal risk and recurrent depression 

In our group we carry out research aimed at delineating mechanisms underpinning persistent suicidal risk in the context of recurrent depression, as well as work towards identifying mechanisms of change in MBCT for this group ( I will present findings from a study on working memory capacity (WMC) as a candidate mechanism of change in a mindfulness course offered to the general public at Oxford (= 56), and discuss both challenges in assessment of this putative mechanism as well as potential implications for claims about the role of WMC in this area. I will also present an fMRI study which we are currently starting, where, using a block-design and within subject-design (N = 35) examining the neural basis of experimental analogues to mindful processing in suicidal samples, as well as the differential impact of different modes of processing on reactivity to suicidal urges.