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Strengthened hippocampal circuits underlie enhanced retrieval of extinguished fear memories following mindfulness training


Sevinc, Gunes; Hölzel, Britta K; Greenberg, Jonathan; Gard, Tim; Brunsch, Vincent; Hashmi, Javeria A; Vangel, Mark; Orr, Scott P; Milad, Mohammed R; Lazar, Sara W (2019). Strengthened hippocampal circuits underlie enhanced retrieval of extinguished fear memories following mindfulness training. Biological Psychiatry, 86(9):693-702.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:
The role of hippocampus in context-dependent recall of extinction is well recognized. However, little is known about how intervention-induced changes in hippocampal networks relate to improvements in extinction learning. In this study, we hypothesized that mindfulness training creates an optimal exposure condition by heightening attention and awareness of present moment sensory experience, leading to enhanced extinction learning, improved emotion regulation, and reduced anxiety symptoms.
METHODS:
We tested this hypothesis in a randomized controlled longitudinal study design using a 2-day fear conditioning and extinction protocol. The mindfulness training group included 42 participants (28 women) and the control group included 25 participants (15 women).
RESULTS:
We show that mindfulness training is associated with differential engagement of the right supramarginal gyrus as well as hippocampal-cortical reorganization. We also report enhanced hippocampal connectivity to the primary sensory cortex during retrieval of extinguished stimuli following mindfulness training.
CONCLUSIONS:
These findings suggest hippocampal-dependent changes in contextual retrieval as one plausible neural mechanism through which mindfulness-based interventions enhance fear extinction and foster stress resilience.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:
The role of hippocampus in context-dependent recall of extinction is well recognized. However, little is known about how intervention-induced changes in hippocampal networks relate to improvements in extinction learning. In this study, we hypothesized that mindfulness training creates an optimal exposure condition by heightening attention and awareness of present moment sensory experience, leading to enhanced extinction learning, improved emotion regulation, and reduced anxiety symptoms.
METHODS:
We tested this hypothesis in a randomized controlled longitudinal study design using a 2-day fear conditioning and extinction protocol. The mindfulness training group included 42 participants (28 women) and the control group included 25 participants (15 women).
RESULTS:
We show that mindfulness training is associated with differential engagement of the right supramarginal gyrus as well as hippocampal-cortical reorganization. We also report enhanced hippocampal connectivity to the primary sensory cortex during retrieval of extinguished stimuli following mindfulness training.
CONCLUSIONS:
These findings suggest hippocampal-dependent changes in contextual retrieval as one plausible neural mechanism through which mindfulness-based interventions enhance fear extinction and foster stress resilience.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Institute of Complementary Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Biological Psychiatry
Language:English
Date:1 November 2019
Deposited On:07 Feb 2020 10:19
Last Modified:22 Jun 2024 01:41
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0006-3223
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2019.05.017
PubMed ID:31303261
  • Content: Published Version
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)