Mindfulness Training Changes Brain Dynamics During Depressive Rumination: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Anne Maj van der Velden*, Jacqueline Scholl, Else-Marie Elmholdt, Lone O Fjorback, Catherine J Harmer, Sara W Lazar, Mia S O'Toole, Jonathan Smallwood, Andreas Roepstorff, Willem Kuyken

*Corresponding author for this work

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BACKGROUND: Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide and its prevalence is on the rise. One of the most debilitating aspects of depression is the dominance and persistence of depressive rumination, a state of mind that is linked to onset and recurrence of depression. Mindfulness meditation trains adaptive attention regulation and present-moment embodied awareness, skills that may be particularly useful during depressive mind states characterized by negative ruminative thoughts.

METHODS: In a randomized controlled functional magnetic resonance imaging study (N = 80), we looked at the neurocognitive mechanisms behind mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (n = 50) for recurrent depression compared with treatment as usual (n = 30) across experimentally induced states of rest, mindfulness practice and rumination, and the relationship with dispositional psychological processes.

RESULTS: Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy compared with treatment as usual led to decreased salience network connectivity to the lingual gyrus during a ruminative state, and this change in salience network connectivity mediated improvements in the ability to sustain and control attention to body sensations.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings showed that a clinically effective mindfulness intervention modulates neurocognitive functioning during depressive rumination and the ability to sustain attention to the body.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Pages (from-to)233-242
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • Depression
  • Interoceptive awareness
  • Mechanisms
  • Mindfulness
  • Neural connectivity
  • Rumination


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