Fundamental questions

Persistent subjective states of anxiety or depression resulting from chronic stress, pain, or incidence of trauma, facilitate dynamic and iterative dysregulation across sensory-motor, emotional, and cognitive processes. These chronic maladaptive states increase the likelihood of poor health outcomes including immunodeficiency, inflammation, and psychopathology. Fortunately, a growing body of research suggests that certain forms of systematic mental training associated with mindfulness-based meditation and other wisdom-based contemplative practices can provide the requisite tools for improved self-awareness, self-regulation, prosocial behavior, and overall well-being. 

Based on these observations, there are two main questions that drives our program of research: 

  • Through mixed research methods of systems biology, neuroimaging, predictive computational modeling, connectomics, genomic and neuroendocrine science, innovation, cognitive-behavioral and first-person phenomenological analyses, can we identify the basic neurobiological and physiological components that constitute adaptive mind-brain-body interactions and their therapeutic relevance in health settings?”
  • What are the basic developmental patterns of body-mind-brain changes that occur as a result of rigorous mental training in contemplative traditions and what are the interactions that constitute the development of a flourishing constitution?


Mapping the Meditative Mind (M3)

 Characterizing Patterns of body-mind-brain activity across the spectrum of experience of practitioners. We aim to:

  1. Identify individualized targets for therapeutic or prescriptive purposes
  2. Predict outcomes in clinical populations
  3. Diagnose forms of dysregulation
  4. Facilitate navigation of progress by the practitioner 


Mechanisms of MBIs (MOMBI Trial)

Mindfulness-based Interventions (MBIs) are a family of standardized cognitive and behavioral therapies that focus on cultivating mindfulness-related skills for improving maladaptive cognitive, emotional, and behavioral processes.

MBIs have been developed for a wide range of problems, disorders, and populations and are increasingly available in a variety of health settings. Two well-validated MBIs are mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT; Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002), and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR; Kabat-Zinn, 1982, 1990). Variations on these approaches, including integration of mindfulness training into individual psychotherapy from diverse perspectives, also have been described (Germer, Siegel, & Fulton, 2005). As the empirical evidence for the efficacy of these interventions continues to grow, the importance of investigating the mechanisms or processes by which they lead to beneficial outcomes is increasingly recognized. This mixed methods study proposes to investigate proposed neurobiological, physiological, psycho-social-behavioral, and cognitive mechanisms by which MBIs may improve health outcomes. Target (mechanism) engagement is expected to facilitate identification of individuals who are most likely to benefit (or not) from MBIs and further develop targeted interventions for optimization of delivery. Although there are very specific aims and hypotheses to be tested, this preliminary exploratory investigation will provide feasibility data and allow for refining existing hypotheses for larger research proposals to be submitted for extramural grant support.


Targeting & Validating Attention Regulation Markers of Mindfulness for Pain

Attention is a critical variable for how pain affects us moment to moment. Here we plan to identify markers of attention regulation that predict coping with pain