Explanation of emotion regulation mechanism of mindfulness using a brain function model.

Affiliation

Nakamura H(1), Tawatsuji Y(2), Fang S(3), Matsui T(4).
Author information:
(1)Graduate School of Human Sciences, Waseda University, Saitama, Japan. Electronic address: [Email]
(2)Global Education Center, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan. Electronic address: [Email]
(3)Global Education Center, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan. Electronic address: [Email]
(4)Faculty of Human Sciences, Waseda University, Saitama, Japan. Electronic address: [Email]

Abstract

The emotion regulation mechanism of mindfulness plays an important role in the stress reduction effect. Many researchers in the fields of cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience have attempted to elucidate this mechanism by documenting the cognitive processes that occur and the neural activities that characterize each process. However, previous findings have not revealed the mechanism of information propagation in the brain that achieves emotion regulation during mindfulness. In this study, we constructed a functional brain model based on its anatomical network structure and a computational model representing the propagation of information between brain regions. We then examined the effects of mindfulness meditation on information propagation in the brain using simulations of changes in the activity of each region. These simulations of changes represent the degree of processing resource allocation to the neural activity via changes in the weights of each region's output. As a result of the simulations, we reveal how the neural activity characteristic of emotion regulation in mindfulness, which has been reported in previous studies, is realized in the brain. Mindfulness meditation increases the weight of the output from each region of the thalamus and sensory cortex, which processes sensory stimuli from the external world. This sensory information activates the insula and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The orbitofrontal cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex inhibit amygdala activity (i.e., top-down emotion regulation). However, when mindfulness meditation dominates bottom-up processing via sensory stimuli from the external world, amygdala activity increases through the insula and ACC activation.