Minding One's Emotions: Mindfulness Training Alters the Neural Expression of Sadness

Norman A.S. Farb, Adam K. Anderson, Helen Mayberg, Jim Bean, Deborah McKeon, Zindel V. Segal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

359 Scopus citations


Recovery from emotional challenge and increased tolerance of negative affect are both hallmarks of mental health. Mindfulness training (MT) has been shown to facilitate these outcomes, yet little is known about its mechanisms of action. The present study employed functional MRI (fMRI) to compare neural reactivity to sadness provocation in participants completing 8 weeks of MT and waitlisted controls. Sadness resulted in widespread recruitment of regions associated with self-referential processes along the cortical midline. Despite equivalent self-reported sadness, MT participants demonstrated a distinct neural response, with greater right-lateralized recruitment, including visceral and somatosensory areas associated with body sensation. The greater somatic recruitment observed in the MT group during evoked sadness was associated with decreased depression scores. Restoring balance between affective and sensory neural networks-supporting conceptual and body based representations of emotion-could be one path through which mindfulness reduces vulnerability to dysphoric reactivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-33
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • depression
  • fMRI
  • mindfulness
  • reactivity
  • sadness


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