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Prefrontal Regulatory Mechanisms of Mindfulness and Stress Reduction and Links to Markers of Health

Taren, Adrienne A. (2015) Prefrontal Regulatory Mechanisms of Mindfulness and Stress Reduction and Links to Markers of Health. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Mindfulness is, at its core, an open or receptive attention to present-moment experience. In recent years, interest in understanding the underlying neurobiology of mindfulness training has grown exponentially as more and more studies show the psychological and physiological health benefits of mindfulness practice, particularly in stressed populations. A primary goal of this emerging field has been to identify the neural mechanisms by which mindfulness training interventions may be producing such beneficial effects, which include decreased stress-responding as well as increased attentional focus, enhanced cognitive flexibility, and greater capacity for emotion regulation, cognitive processes that can be broadly classified as “executive control”. Here, across three studies, I focus on the intrinsic neural circuitry underlying stress-responding and executive control. Using functional MRI data, I investigate changes in functional neural connectivity after a randomized controlled trial of a mindfulness training intervention (relative to a relaxation control intervention) in a high-stress, unemployed community adult population. In Chapter 2, I identify stress-related increased resting state functional connectivity in an amygdala-subgenual anterior cingulate pathway that is decoupled by mindfulness training. In Chapter 3, I characterize mindfulness training-associated changes in the functional connectivity of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex to other attention and executive control-associated brain regions. Extending these region-specific functional connectivity findings, in Chapter 4 I show network-level changes in information processing within attention and salience-responding networks after mindfulness training. Collectively, these results demonstrate that mindfulness training may decrease baseline functional coupling between regions implicated in stress-responding and increase connectivity between regions implicated in executive control, and enhance the efficiency of information transfer between distributed neural circuitry for attentional monitoring.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Taren, Adrienne
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee MemberCreswell,
Committee ChairTarr,
Committee MemberGianaros, Petergianaros@pitt.eduGIANAROS
Committee MemberErickson, Kirkkiericks@pitt.eduKIERICKS
Committee MemberLuna, Beatrizlunab@upmc.eduLUNA
Committee MemberHallquist,
Committee MemberJust,
Date: 23 June 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 3 March 2015
Approval Date: 23 June 2015
Submission Date: 12 March 2015
Access Restriction: 1 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 1 year.
Number of Pages: 117
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Neuroscience
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: mindfulness, stress, attention, salience, prefrontal cortex, fMRI
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2015 14:40
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2016 14:42


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