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*indicates graduate student advisee
*Cary, E., Russo, N., Racer, K., & Felver, J. C. (in press). Neural correlate of acceptance: Relating individual differences in dispositional acceptance to error processing. Mindfulness. doi: 10.1007/s12671-020-01368-9
Objectives: Many of the observed benefits following mindfulness training are associated with changes to acceptance, characterized by having less reactivity to, and judgment of, one’s experiences. Acceptance may be particularly relevant to the processing of errors, as errors often enlist difficult cognitive and affective reactions. Error processing can be measured by error-related negativity (ERN), a negative deflection that directly reflects the brain’s signal of error processing. The present study examined whether error processing may be a neural correlate of acceptance at the dispositional level in non-clinical populations, outside the context of meditation training. Methods: Thirty-seven participants, with a mean age of 22 years (SD = 5.79), 48.6% female, completed a Go/No-Go (GNG) task while their performance was monitored with an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure the ERN and the co-occurring behaviors of response inhibition. Acceptance was measured by the nonreactivity and nonjudging subscales of the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ). Results: Nonreactivity correlated with a less negative ERN (r = 0.43, p = 0.01, 95% CI = [0.11, 0.67]), and higher acceptance correlated with faster reaction time (r = -0.48, p = 0.003, 95% CI = [-0.70, -0.18]), without any trade-offs in accuracy. Conclusions: Findings suggest that individuals higher in acceptance may process errors and competing responses with less neural activity while still displaying similar behavioral responses. Given the limited objective measures for assessing acceptance and the benefits associated with acceptance, the presence of these neural and behavioral correlates of acceptance may inform the clinical research of mindfulness interventions.
Felver, J. C., *Helminen, DiFlorio, R. (in press). Ultra-brief mindfulness intervention for highly stressed professionals: A pilot open trial. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. doi: 10.1089/acm.2019.0311
Objectives: Stress causes health problems, and although evidence supports mindfulness intervention’s health benefits via stress reduction, a noted barrier of participation is the significant time commitment. Individuals in busy occupations have less time to devote to self-care and are at higher-risk for stress and associated problems. This research evaluated the outcomes, feasibility, and acceptability of an ultra-brief mindfulness intervention for individuals in stressful professions. Design: This pilot open clinical trial evaluated pre- post-intervention outcomes. Setting: Individuals were recruited from an occupation known for being highly demanding and stressful: school principals. Participants were recruited from a large urban, high-poverty, public school system. Intervention: The newly developed ultra-brief mindfulness intervention comprised two 1-hour group sessions and daily 5-minute mindfulness practice. Intervention components included: didactic instruction in mindful breathing, evidence-based behavioral change strategies, discussion and content adopted from well-established mindfulness curricula, and practice reminders delivered via text messages. Outcome measures: Mental health, quality of life, and mindfulness were evaluated with self-report questionnaires. Feasibility was assessed via attendance and mindfulness practice logs, and acceptability was measured with open-ended written feedback at post-intervention. Results: Participants reported significant reductions in mental health symptoms and gains in quality of life and mindfulness. About half of recruited participants completed the intervention, with the noted barrier being not having time to attend sessions and practice mindfulness for 5-minutes daily. Participants found the intervention acceptable. Conclusions: Highly-demanding occupations may benefit from ultra-brief mindfulness intervention, however this may necessitate employers providing protected time for participation and practice.
Felver, J. C., Razza, R., *Morton, M. L., *Clawson, A. J., & Shaffer Mannion, R. (in press). Physical education that includes yoga increases adolescent social-emotional competence: A pilot trial. Journal of Child & Adolescent Mental Health. doi: 10.2989/17280583.2019.1698429
Background: Youth often experience stressors leading to negative long-term outcomes. Enhancing social-emotional attributes is important to foster resiliency to face these challenges. Yoga may enhance social-emotional resiliency among youth. However, research replicating such results in school-settings is limited. This research details an investigation of the effects of the Kripalu Yoga in the Schools (KYIS) intervention integrated into a physical education class among a racially/ethnically diverse student population. Method: Middle school sixth grade students (n = 23 students; 52% female; mean age = 12.1 years) were either enrolled in physical education class that included KYIS (n = 9), or were enrolled in art and music (control condition; n = 14). To evaluate effects on student characteristics, self-report questionnaires of social-emotional competence and problem behaviour were administered pre- and post-delivery of the curriculum. Results: Students receiving the intervention increased in social-emotional competence over time relative to the control condition. Although promising, results should be interpreted with caution, as students who received the yoga intervention scored significantly lower on social-emotional competence than students in the control group at pre-intervention measurement time point. Conclusions: Yoga may improve social-emotional competence among youth and future research should explore the utility of yoga curricula in school settings.
*Morton, M. L., *Helminen, E., & Felver, J. C. (in press). A systematic review of mindfulness interventions on psychophysiological responses to acute stress. Mindfulness. doi: 10.1007/s12671-020-01386-7
Objectives Excessive stress has become a common health concern that may result in deleterious physical and psychological conditions. Mindfulness has emerged as a practice that may buffer stress reactivity and researchers have progressively used an empirically validated laboratory protocol, the Trier Social Stress Test, to elicit stress reactivity to examine the buffering capacity of mindfulness. This systematic review aims to (1) summarize the literature on the effects of mindfulness interventions (MI) on stress reactivity measured via the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), and (2) examinemethodological variability across this literature and how variations in methodology may be influencing stress reactivity outcomes. Methods Various databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, MEDLINE, and PsycArticles) were systematically searched to identify MI studies that included stress reactivity to the TSST as a dependent outcome. Results Six out of 13 studies with physiological variables and seven out of 10 studies with self-report variables demonstrated the stress-buffering effects of MI on acute stress induction. Participant populations, differences in control groups, MI protocols, intervention dosage, and the number of TSST administrations seem to influence the stress-buffering effects of MI. Conclusions The ability of MI to buffer stress reactivity seems to be robust when measured via self-report, but stress-buffering effects are less clear for physiological measures. There is evidence that variations in study methodology may influence stress reactivity outcomes; the type of mindfulness practice and the dosage of practice seem to be particularly influential. Further research is necessary to more accurately characterize the relation between MI and stress reactivity.
Felver, J. C., *Clawson, A. J., *Morton, M. L., Brier-Kennedy, E., Janack, P., & DiFlorio, R. A. (2019). School-based mindfulness intervention supports adolescent resiliency: A randomized controlled pilot study. International Journal of School and Educational Psychology, 7, 111-122. doi:10.1080/21683603.2018.1461722
This research evaluated the effects of a seven-session mindfulness intervention, Learning to BREATHE, on an ethnically diverse at-risk high school student sample. Two classrooms were randomly assigned to intervention or normal health-education programming. Results indicated significant effects to self-reported psychosocial resilience, with students receiving the intervention reporting stable levels of resilience over time and students in the control condition reporting significant reductions. Intervention groups did not evidence change to self-reported psychosocial problem behavior, school attendance, and quarterly academic grades. Findings suggest that MBI may offer an effective strategy for enhancing student dispositional resilience, and suggestions for further research are offered.
*Helminen, E. C., *Morton, M. L., Wang, Q., & Felver, J. C. (2019). A meta-analysis of cortisol reactivity to the Trier Social Stress Test in virtual environments. Psychoneuroendocrinology. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.104437
Background: Maladaptive responses to stressors can lead to poor physical and psychological health outcomes. Laboratory studies of stress induction commonly use the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST). The TSST has been shown to reliably induce a stress response, most commonly measured via cortisol reactivity. Recently, researchers have used virtual environment versions of the TSST (V-TSST) in place of the traditional TSST. The VTSST has many advantages over the traditional TSST, including increased standardization and use of fewer resources, but V-TSST has yet to be quantitatively reviewed and compared to the traditional TSST. This review aims to quantifying the effectiveness of V-TSST with a meta-analysis of cortisol response effects and identify potential moderating variables that are more likely to induce a cortisol response with V-TSST. Methods: Literature searches were conducted including the key words Trier Social Stress Test, TSST, and virtual reality. Thirteen studies were included in this meta-analysis after meeting the inclusion criteria of utilizing a VTSST and having cortisol measurements at baseline and peak stress to assess cortisol reactivity. The standardized mean gain effect size was used. Results and discussion: There was a medium average effect size (ESsg = 0.65) across all studies for increase in cortisol from baseline to peak measurement. Significant moderating effects were seen for participant age, sex, and level of immersivity of the virtual environment. Studies in which participants were under 25 years old, or all male, showed greater effect sizes for cortisol reactivity. Virtual environments that were more immersive also evidenced greater effect sizes. Although the V-TSST is effective at inducing psychosocial stress, the magnitude of this response is less than the traditional TSST. Based on these results, recommendations for future research are provided.