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Neural Mechanisms of Mindful Regulation of Worry
Worry and related forms of perseverative thought are major transdiagnostic features and mechanisms of emotion-related psychopathology. Mindfulness interventions show promise for reducing perseverative thought. However, the neural mechanisms by which mindfulness functions as a cognitive-emotional regulation strategy are not well-characterized. Clarifying these mechanisms will facilitate the development of neurobiologically-informed cognitive-behavioral interventions. The current study investigates hypothesized neural mechanisms of successful and unsuccessful mindful disengagement from worry. A transdiagnostic sample of meditation-naïve high worriers (current N = 23 / 40; data collection to conclude June 2019) completed a diagnostic interview; worry topics interview; self-report (baseline; day of scanning; 1-week follow-up); and underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). During fMRI, participants worried and regulated their worry using three cognitive-emotional regulation strategies: attention-focus mindfulness; acceptance-monitoring mindfulness; and thought suppression (block design; counterbalanced). Each regulation period resolved in a thought probe assessing worry and mindfulness at the signal. Region of interest (ROI) and functional connectivity analyses will test hypothesized ROIs and networks associated with successful versus failed regulation. We did not conduct interim analyses and will instead follow a registered analytic plan to evaluate: 1) neural activity during mindfulness versus suppression; and 2) neural predictors of thought probe responses.