Date of Original Version
This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.01.008
Abstract or Description
BACKGROUND: Mindfulness meditation training interventions have been shown to improve markers of health, but the underlying neurobiological mechanisms are not known. Building on initial cross-sectional research showing that mindfulness meditation may increase default mode network (DMN) resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) with regions important in top-down executive control (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex [dlPFC]), here we test whether mindfulness meditation training increases DMN-dlPFC rsFC and whether these rsFC alterations prospectively explain improvements in interleukin (IL)-6 in a randomized controlled trial.
METHODS: Stressed job-seeking unemployed community adults (n = 35) were randomized to either a 3-day intensive residential mindfulness meditation or relaxation training program. Participants completed a 5-minute resting-state scan before and after the intervention program. Participants also provided blood samples at preintervention and at 4-month follow-up, which were assayed for circulating IL-6, a biomarker of systemic inflammation.
RESULTS: We tested for alterations in DMN rsFC using a posterior cingulate cortex seed-based analysis and found that mindfulness meditation training, and not relaxation training, increased posterior cingulate cortex rsFC with left dlPFC (p < .05, corrected). These pretraining to posttraining alterations in posterior cingulate cortex-dlPFC rsFC statistically mediated mindfulness meditation training improvements in IL-6 at 4-month follow-up. Specifically, these alterations in rsFC statistically explained 30% of the overall mindfulness meditation training effects on IL-6 at follow-up.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings provide the first evidence that mindfulness meditation training functionally couples the DMN with a region known to be important in top-down executive control at rest (left dlPFC), which, in turn, is associated with improvements in a marker of inflammatory disease risk.
Biological psychiatry, forthcoming.