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Meditation and Mindfulness Research Group

Investigating mechanisms and effects of meditation and mindfulness practices

We are studying the psychological, neural, and physiological processes that contribute to the beneficial effects of meditation practices and use these insights to develop meditation-based interventions.

The cultivation of the mind through meditation and mindfulness practices are central to the research of our group. In recent years the scientific interest in such practices has grown rapidly, fuelled by the emerging evidence of their effectiveness in a range of settings, particularly within clinical psychology and health care. Our aims are to advance the in-depth understanding of meditation and mindfulness practices, primarily by unravelling the precise psychological, physiological and neural mechanisms underlying the reported benefits and to translate this into tailored training programmes and interventions.

Our expertise

We are combining our expertise in cognitive neuroscience, appetitive behaviour (such as eating) and body perception with a deep understanding of meditation and mindfulness practice, contributed by Dr Malinowski’s experience of more than 20 years as a meditation teacher. We are using a multi-method approach – including self-report measures, behavioural performance measures, physiological markers and measures of brain activity – to develop a fine-grained understanding of the processes and changes associated with meditation. We then apply this understanding within different contexts, developing targeted interventions, for example mindful eating, mindful ageing, mindfulness @ work or mindfulness-based preparation for surgery.

PhD projects

  • Mindfulness, green spaces and well-being – Adele Hurst (DClinPsy, co-supervision with the University of Liverpool, since 2015)
  • Persistent post-surgical pain after hysterectomy: a mindfulness-based intervention – Rebecca Hort-Atkinson (since 2014)
  • Caring for Carers – Mindfulness-based self-compassion training – Kate Diggory (since 2013)
  • Mindfulness and eating behaviour – Naomi Fisher (completed in 2014)
  • Facilitating Healthy Ageing: Neuroprotective effects of mindfulness practice – Adam Moore (completed in 2013)

Case study

In one of our main projects we investigate the potential of mindfulness practice to prevent cognitive decline associated with ageing. Our initial results are promising, indicating that when older participants (mean age 65 years) engage in brief mindful-breath awareness practices for 10 minutes per day over an eight week period significant improvements in cognitive performance and associated brain processes can be observed.

Collaborations

Members of the group collaborate with colleagues from the UK, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Spain and The Netherlands.

Research of our group members is funded by:

  • Pain Relief Foundation
  • BIAL Foundation
  • National Institute for Health Research
  • Mersey Care NHS Trust
  • The Royal Society
  • The British Academy
  • Kellogg’s
  • LJMU’s Institute for Health Research

Publications

Search for a research paper

3 papers found

  • 'I can't accept that feeling': Relationships between interoceptive awareness, mindfulness and eating disorder symptoms in females with, and at-risk of an eating disorder

    Lattimore P, Mead BR, Irwin L, Grice L and Carson R and Malinowski P

    Publish date:2017

  • 'I can't accept that feeling': Relationships between interoceptive awareness, mindfulness and eating disorder symptoms in females with, and at-risk of an eating disorder

    Lattimore P, Mead BR, Irwin L, Grice L and Carson R and Malinowski P

    Publish date:2017

  • Mindful Aging: The Effects of Regular Brief Mindfulness Practice on Electrophysiological Markers of Cognitive and Affective Processing in Older Adults

    Malinowski P, Moore AW and Mead BR and Gruber T

    Publish date:2017

Showing 3 papers

Teaching and learning

All staff in the group contribute to teaching modules on the BSc (Hons) Psychology programme (e.g. cognitive neuroscience, positive psychology and appetitive behaviour modules) and some to the Health Psychology (MSc) programme.

Facilities

Our research is conducted within modern laboratories housed within the Tom Reilly Building. In particular we use the appetite research laboratory, the electrically shielded EEG research lab with high-density active electrode systems and a range of laboratory equipment for measuring various psychophysiological markers such as blood pressure, skin conductance or heart rate.

Through collaboration with the Institute of Tibetan and Asian Studies and the Karma Guen Retreat Centre in Vélez-Málaga (Spain), Dr Malinowski has access to dedicated laboratory facilities, allowing the investigation of long-term meditation practitioners under controlled retreat conditions.

People

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PhD students

Jekaterina Schneider

Thesis title:
Self-regulation training to promote physical activity: A mindfulness-based approach to optimise healthy lifestyle interventions.

Supervisory team:
Dr Paul Lattimore, Dr Peter Malinowski, and Dr Paula Watson

Summary of PhD:
Despite continued public health campaigns to promote the benefits of physical activity (PA) and research to uncover how to motivate people to become more active and less sedentary, physical inactivity affects 60% of the world population and continues to pose a risk of overweight and obesity, type-2 diabetes, and certain cancers. However, trials targeting lifestyle change show only modest changes in target behaviours and limited long-term benefits. Further research is needed to identify the mechanisms of successful PA behaviour change, especially for obese individuals who experience additional barriers to PA.

Existing evidence is limited, but suggests that sustained PA behaviour is dependent, in part, on enhancing self-regulation skills. The challenge of current lifestyle interventions for the treatment and prevention of obesity is to identify how to motivate individuals to translate intentions into actual PA behaviour. Identification of, and subsequent training in self-regulation skills that bridge the PA intention-behaviour gap is required to optimise lifestyle interventions. The proposed research will address this need by focusing on self-regulation skills and their precursors.

A direct method that could be used to identify self-regulation mechanisms and potentially enhance PA self-regulation is mindfulness training (MT). Mindfulness has been defined as awareness resulting from purposefully paying attention to experiences of the present moment without reacting to or judging them.

Cross-sectional investigations demonstrate that those who are more mindful are more likely to translate PA intentions into behaviour, maintain exercise programmes, be intrinsically motivated to engage in PA, and feel satisfied with the experience of PA. However, cross-sectional evidence is limited in value and prospective research is urgently needed to understand the mechanisms through which mindfulness enhances PA behaviour, and whether MT can be recommended as an efficacious component of various approaches to PA promotion.

Future plans:
Post-doctoral degree related to mindfulness and physical activity.