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Effects of meditation on frontal α-asymmetry in previously suicidal individuals

Barnhofer, Thorsten; Duggan, Danielle; Crane, Catherine; Hepburn, Silvia; Fennell, Melanie J.V.; Williams, J. Mark G.

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e3280d943cd

This study investigated the effects of a meditation-based treatment for preventing relapse to depression, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), on prefrontal α-asymmetry in resting electroencephalogram (EEG), a biological indicator of affective style. Twenty-two individuals with a previous history of suicidal depression were randomly assigned to either MBCT (N=10) or treatment-as-usual (TAU, N=12). Resting electroencephalogram was measured before and after an 8-week course of treatment. The TAU group showed a significant deterioration toward decreased relative left-frontal activation, indexing decreases in positive affective style, while there was no significant change in the MBCT group. The findings suggest that MBCT can help individuals at high risk for suicidal depression to retain a balanced pattern of baseline emotion-related brain activation.

Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Warneford Hospital, Oxford, UK

Correspondence to Dr Thorsten Barnhofer, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Warneford Hospital, Oxford OX3 7JX, UK

Tel: +44 1865 223920; fax: +44 1865 223948; e-mail:

Received 17 January 2007 accepted 26 January 2007

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.