Mechanisms of Mindfulness Meditation for Major Depressive Disorder

Kathryn Margiotta

McLean Hospital
Mechanisms of Mindfulness Meditation for Major Depressive Disorder

Scientific Abstract

Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is associated globally with the greatest burden of disability of any disease. Unfortunately, treatments for MDD are often ineffective. Mindfulness meditation is a contemplative practice that facilitates awareness and acceptance of mental and bodily experiences. Previous studies have shown that mindfulness meditation-based interventions reduce depressive symptoms with the same efficacy as front-line evidence-based behavioral and antidepressant medication therapies. The goal of the present study is to further our understanding of the biological and psychological mechanisms of action that underlie the health-related benefits of mindfulness meditation for MDD. We will achieve this goal by investigating domains of cognition, affect, behavior, the brain, and psychoneuroimmunology.

Methods: This study will include the recruitment of over 100 adults diagnosed with MDD. Participants will be randomized into mindfulness meditation training or a non-mindfulness control intervention. Each training is structurally equivalent and includes daily lessons with individual practice. Before and after intervention, participants will be assessed using high- density electroencephalography (EEG), functional MRI (fMRI), blood measures, behavioral tests, structured clinical interviews, and self-report questionnaires.

Conclusions: We expect this project will provide new insights into the mechanisms of action of mindfulness meditation for MDD. We expect that mindfulness meditation will improve cognition, affect, and symptoms, and that these will be related to changes in brain function and inflammatory markers. These findings promise to inform the development of mindfulness meditation-based treatments for MDD and related conditions and thus support better outcomes and reduce the suffering of individuals with mental illness.

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research Areas


Kathryn N. Margiotta, Justyna Stukin, Anastasia N. Ryhanych, Micah Breiger, BS, Diego A. Pizzagalli, PhD., Matthew D. Sacchet, PhD

Principal Investigator

Matthew D. Sacchet, PhD