Core neurocognitive processes of well-being
Research into the core neurocognitive processes underlying well-being and their modulation by contemplative training has been central to our investigations from the start of the lab's research program. Our studies conducted in schools have been first piloted with adults and across all our research projects we have been examining with variety of experimental tasks and measures overlapping systemic patterns in cognition and brain functioning associated with well-being. This research resulted in several recent theoretical publications proposing overarching mechanisms of well-being with particular focus on the metacognitive self-regulatory capacity of the mind and modes of existential awareness. This line of research conducted by Dr. Dorjee now aims to develop measures to evaluate these two core constructs.
Publications on this topic:
Dorjee, D.; Lally, N.; Darrall-Rew, J.; & Thierry, G. (2015) Dispositional mindfulness and semantic integration of emotional words: Evidence from event-related brain potentials. Neuroscience Research. 97, 45-51.
Developmental Contemplative Neuroscience
Over the last six years we have conducted four controlled longitudinal studies in schools. The studies investigated the impact of secular contemplative training (mostly mindfulness-based programs) on attention and emotion regulation of children and adolescents measured by brain potential and heart-rate variability measures. Three of the studies involved older primary school children and in one study we worked with older adolescents. These studies followed an integrative neurodevelopmental framework we have proposed for future research in this area, exploring converging/diverging evidence across variety of measures and highlighting the importance of replication. These studies also reliably pioneered data collection using portable EEG systems in naturalistic school settings. In addition, we have completed two self-report and informant-report based studies in schools, one with children and one with older adolescents. In all these projects the programs were delivered to children and adolescents as part of regular school curricula by their own school teachers - an implementation model we think is most sustainable with regard to any larger-scale implementation efforts. These projects have been supported by
the following funders:
Representative publications (further publications are under review and in preparation):
Sanger, K.L., Thierry, G.L., Dorjee. D. (in press). Effects of school-based mindfulness training on emotion processing and well-being in adolescents: Evidence from event-related potentials. Developmental Science. Doi: 10.1111/desc.12646
Sanger, K. L., & Dorjee, D. (2015). Mindfulness training for adolescents: A neurodevelopmental perspective on investigating modifications in attention and emotion regulation using event-related brain potentials. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 1-16.
Cross-cultural neuroscience of well-being in schools
Existing studies on contemplative practices in primary schools are limited to the Western cultural context. Yet, emotion regulation is nurtured and processed through the underlying cultural values that children internalize during their development. A project conducted by Thy Nguyen under the supervision of Dr. Dorjee aims to examine, using electrophysiological and first-person assessments, the impact of a well-being curriculum with a strong mindfulness component on emotion regulation in Vietnamese primary school children. Of particular interest to us is the use of specific strategies to regulate emotions and inhibition control as an important factor of emotion regulation. This project is supported by the Mind and Life 1440 Award to Thy Nguyen (PI) with Dr. Dorjee as the Co-I. The baseline data has been collected and the post-testing will take place in Febrary-March 2018. We expect the first findings of the study to be published in 2019.
Nguyen, T. & Dorjee, D. (2017, July). The impact of mindfulness training on emotion regulation of primary school children in Vietnamese cultural context. Mindfulness in Society International Conference. Chester, UK.
Neuroscience of mindfulness in aging
So far two studies in our lab investigated the mechanisms of mindfulness in aging. The first study examined the relationship between trait mindfulness and a range of neuropsychological and self-report measures of emotion regulation and cognitive control. The second study was a pseudo-radomized controlled pilot trial conducted as part of her PhD project by Shelby DeMeulenaere under the supervision of Dr. Dorjee. This longitudinal study involved healthy older adults who attended a standard 8-week Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction course. The assessments consisted of several neuroscientific measures including event-related brain potentials, DTI, fMRI based default-mode network assessments at rest together with neuropsychological and self-report assessments of emotion regulation and cognitive control. The initial findings of the study have been recently presented in a conference talk and we expect first papers reporting on the findings to be published in 2018.
DeMeulenaere, S., Dorjee, D., & Mullins, P. (2017, July). The effects of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course on neurometabolite markers of dementia and aging. Mindfulness in Society International Conference. Chester, UK.
Contemplative neuroscience across meditation traditions
This research topic closely overlaps with our investigations of core mechanisms underlying well-being and their modulation by contemplative practice. One of the key questions in this research is whether and how various contemplative practices target different aspects of well-being mechanisms. Possible answers to this question have strong implications for well-being enhancing and therapeutic applications of contemplative practices. So far the most extensive project on this topic from our lab examined similarities and differences in modulation of conceptual processes and associated brain indexes by mindfulness practice and Christian Ignatian meditation training. Initial findings from this research will be published in 2018.
Neuroscience of mindful emotion regulation
Mindfulness as a non-judgmental non-reactive present moment attention has been in the literature discussed as a possible emotion regulation regulation strategy distinct from reappraisal or suppression of emotions. However, arguments have also been made to the contrary, equating mindfulness with reappraisal or distraction. Several electrophysiological studies with young adults in our lab aimed to address these conflicting proposals with interesting initial findings. Publication of the first study from our lab particularly addressing this research question is expected in 2018.
Kaunhoven, R., & Dorjee, D. (2014, April). MBSR decreases negativity bias: A P200 study. Talk presented at the Cognitive Neuroscience of Mindfulness Conference. Bangor, UK.