Mindfulness and emotion regulation--an fMRI study

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2014 Jun;9(6):776-85. doi: 10.1093/scan/nst043. Epub 2013 Apr 5.


Mindfulness--an attentive non-judgmental focus on present experiences--is increasingly incorporated in psychotherapeutic treatments as a skill fostering emotion regulation. Neurobiological mechanisms of actively induced emotion regulation are associated with prefrontally mediated down-regulation of, for instance, the amygdala. We were interested in neurobiological correlates of a short mindfulness instruction during emotional arousal. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we investigated effects of a short mindfulness intervention during the cued expectation and perception of negative and potentially negative pictures (50% probability) in 24 healthy individuals compared to 22 controls. The mindfulness intervention was associated with increased activations in prefrontal regions during the expectation of negative and potentially negative pictures compared to controls. During the perception of negative stimuli, reduced activation was identified in regions involved in emotion processing (amygdala, parahippocampal gyrus). Prefrontal and right insular activations when expecting negative pictures correlated negatively with trait mindfulness, suggesting that more mindful individuals required less regulatory resources to attenuate emotional arousal. Our findings suggest emotion regulatory effects of a short mindfulness intervention on a neurobiological level.

Keywords: amygdale; emotion regulation; fMRI; insula; mindfulness; prefrontal cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anticipation, Psychological / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cues
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychometrics
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult