Meditation-based interventions reduce the relapse risk in recurrently depressed patients. Randomized trials utilizing neurophysiologic outcome measures, however, have yielded inconsistent results with regard to a prophylactic effect. Although frontal brain asymmetry, assessed through electroencephalographic (EEG) alpha activity (8–13 Hz), is indicative of approach vs. withdrawal-related response dispositions and represents a vulnerability marker of depression, clinical trials have provided mixed results as to whether meditation has beneficial effects on alpha asymmetry. Inconsistencies might have arisen since such trials relied on resting-state recordings, instead of active paradigms under challenge, as suggested by contemporary notions of alpha asymmetry.
We examined two groups of remitted, recurrently depressed females. In a “mindfulness support group”, EEG was recorded during neutral rest, and rest following a negative mood induction. Subsequently, participants received initial meditation instructions. EEG was then obtained during an active period of guided mindfulness meditation and rest following the active period. In a “rumination challenge group”, EEGwas obtained during the same resting conditions, whereas in the active period, initial meditation instructions were followed by a rumination challenge. A significant shift in mid-frontal asymmetry, yielding a pattern indicative of approach motivation, was observed in the mindfulness support group, specifically during the meditation period. This indicates that mindfulness meditation may have a transient beneficial effect, which enables patients to take an approach-related motivational stance, particularly under circumstances of risk.
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This paper is in an important area of research but there seemed to be a number of lacunae in the methodology as well as interpretation of results. Dr Jyothi discussed the findings and the various limitations of the study during her presentation.