Changes in cerebral blood flow and anxiety associated with an 8-week mindfulness programme in women with breast cancer

Stress Health. 2012 Dec;28(5):397-407. doi: 10.1002/smi.2470.


This study employed functional magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate changes in cerebral blood flow (CBF) associated with the Mindfulness-based Art Therapy (MBAT) programme and correlate such changes to stress and anxiety in women with breast cancer. Eighteen breast cancer patients were randomized to the MBAT or education control group. The patients received the diagnosis of breast cancer between 6 months and 3 years prior to enrollment and were not in active treatment. The age of participants ranged from 52 to 77 years. A voxel-based analysis was performed to assess differences at rest, during meditation and during a stress task. The anxiety sub-scale of the Symptoms Checklist-90-Revised was compared with changes in resting CBF before and after the programmes. Subjects in the MBAT arm demonstrated significant increases in CBF at rest and during meditation in multiple limbic regions, including the left insula, right amygdala, right hippocampus and bilateral caudate. Patients in the MBAT programme also had a significant correlation between increased CBF in the left caudate and decreased anxiety scores. In the MBAT group, responses to a stressful cue resulted in reduced activation of the posterior cingulate. The results demonstrate that the MBAT programme was associated with significant changes in CBF, which correlated with decreased anxiety over an 8-week period.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Meditation / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome