David R Vago

David R Vago
Vanderbilt University | Vander Bilt · Department of Psychology

PhD

About

69
Publications
93,814
Reads
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5,884
Citations
Introduction
David Vago is Research Associate Professor & Director of the Contemplative Neuroscience and Mind-Body (CNMB) Research Laboratory in the Department of Psychology at Vanderbilt University. He is core training faculty for the Vanderbilt Brain Institute and Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology, and Inflammation. Dr. Vago is also a research associate in the Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Vago is also Research Lead for RoundGlass
Additional affiliations
January 2009 - present
Brigham and Women's Hospital
Position
  • Associate Psychologist
January 2009 - September 2016
Harvard Medical School
Position
  • Instructor
January 2009 - September 2016
Harvard Medical School
Position
  • Instructor

Publications

Publications (69)
Article
Full-text available
In light of a growing interest in contemplative practices such as meditation, the emerging field of contemplative science has been challenged to describe and objectively measure how these practices affect health and well-being. While “mindfulness” itself has been proposed as a measurable outcome of contemplative practices, this concept encompasses...
Article
To better understand the neurobiological mechanisms by which mindfulness-based practices function in a psychotherapeutic context, this article details the definition, techniques, and purposes ascribed to mindfulness training as described by its Buddhist tradition of origin and by contemporary neurocognitive models. Included is theory of how maladap...
Article
Full-text available
This article draws on research in neurosci-ence, cognitive science, developmental psychology, and education, as well as scholarship from contemplative traditions concerning the cultivation of positive develop-ment, to highlight a set of mental skills and socioemotion-al dispositions that are central to the aims of education in the 21st century. The...
Article
Full-text available
Mindfulness-as a state, trait, process, type of meditation, and intervention has proven to be beneficial across a diverse group of psychological disorders as well as for general stress reduction. Yet, there remains a lack of clarity in the operationalization of this construct, and underlying mechanisms. Here, we provide an integrative theoretical f...
Article
Full-text available
Cultivation of mindfulness, the nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment, produces beneficial effects on well-being and ameliorates psychiatric and stress-related symptoms. Mindfulness meditation has therefore increasingly been incorporated into psychotherapeutic interventions. Although the number of publications in the field ha...
Article
Full-text available
This meta-analysis sought to expand upon neurobiological models of mindfulness through investigation of inherent brain network connectivity outcomes, indexed via resting state functional connectivity (rsFC). We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of rsFC as an outcome of mindfulness training (MT) relative to control, with the hypothesis...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms in adults with anxiety disorders, and changes in threat-related attentional bias may be a key mechanism driving the intervention’s effects on anxiety symptoms. Event-related potentials (ERPs) can illuminate the physiological mechanism through which MBCT...
Article
Full-text available
Purpose: Pain accounts for up to 78% of emergency department (ED) patient visits and opioids remain a primary method of treatment despite risks of addiction and adverse effects. While prior acupuncture studies are promising as an alternative opioid-sparing approach to pain reduction, successful conduct of a multi-center pilot study is needed to pr...
Preprint
Full-text available
This meta-analysis sought to expand upon neurobiological models of mindfulness through investigation of inherent brain network connectivity outcomes, indexed via resting state functional connectivity (rsFC). We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of rsFC as an outcome of mindfulness training (MT) relative to structurally-equivalent prog...
Article
Full-text available
Self-related processes (SRPs) have been theorized as key mechanisms of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs), but the evidence supporting these theories is currently unclear. This evidence map introduces a comprehensive framework for different types of SRPs, and how they are theorized to function as mechanisms of MBIs (target identification). The...
Chapter
Equanimity consists of an accepting and unattached disposition, and it facilitates more rapid physiological and emotional recovery following an acute stressor. Mindfulness and meditation practices, in general, are well-established methods of cultivating equanimity and exposure to such practices has been shown to correlate with self-reported, neuroi...
Preprint
Full-text available
div> Knowingly or unknowingly, digital-data is an integral part of our day-to-day lives. Realistically, there is probably not a single day when we do not encounter some form of digital-data. Typically, data originates from diverse sources in various formats out of which time-series is a special kind of data that captures the information about the...
Preprint
div> Knowingly or unknowingly, digital-data is an integral part of our day-to-day lives. Realistically, there is probably not a single day when we do not encounter some form of digital-data. Typically, data originates from diverse sources in various formats out of which time-series is a special kind of data that captures the information about the...
Article
Full-text available
Youth at risk for negative health outcomes due to reduced access to social, mental health, and educational support systems are in particular need of resources promoting social-emotional resilience and positive educational outcomes. A growing body of research documents the positive benefits of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs), but few studies...
Preprint
Full-text available
div> Ultrasound imaging is one of the most versatile imaging method in order to observe inner workings of human- body. Due to its simplicity, cost-effectiveness, easy availability and portability, a diverse set of applications are influenced by this very popular imaging modality. Despite its popularity as one of the most widely used imaging techn...
Preprint
div> Ultrasound imaging is one of the most versatile imaging method in order to observe inner workings of human- body. Due to its simplicity, cost-effectiveness, easy availability and portability, a diverse set of applications are influenced by this very popular imaging modality. Despite its popularity as one of the most widely used imaging techn...
Article
Full-text available
Mindfulness-based programs (MBPs) are increasingly utilized to improve mental health. Interest in the putative effects of MBPs on cognitive function is also growing. This is the first meta-analysis of objective cognitive outcomes across multiple domains from randomized MBP studies of adults. Seven databases were systematically searched to January 2...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have been widely implemented to improve self-regulation behaviors, often by targeting emotion-related constructs to facilitate change. Yet the degree to which MBIs engage specific measures of emotion-related constructs has not been systematically examined. Methods Using advanced meta-analytic techn...
Article
Threat-related attention bias is thought to contribute to the development and maintenance of anxiety disorders. Dot-probe studies using event-related potentials (ERPs) have indicated that several early ERP components are modulated by threatening and emotional stimuli in anxious populations, suggesting enhanced allocation of attention to threat and...
Article
Full-text available
The primary focus of mindfulness‐based program (MBP) research to date has been on mental health. More recently, attention has turned to putative effects on cognition. An evidence synthesis is required to answer the key question of ‘Do MBPs confer cognitive benefit, and if so, for whom?’ A particularly crucial distinction is whether benefits differ...
Article
Full-text available
Initiating and maintaining behavior change is key to the prevention and treatment of most preventable chronic medical and psychiatric illnesses. The cultivation of mindfulness, involving acceptance and nonjudgment of present-moment experience, often results in transformative health behavior change. Neural systems involved in motivation and learning...
Article
Full-text available
Objective: To evaluate effects of a mindfulness-based program, adapted to the young adult life course stage (age 18-29), named Mindfulness-Based College (MB-College). The primary outcome was a young adult health summary score, composed of key health risk factors: body mass index, physical activity, fruit and vegetable intake, alcohol consumption,...
Article
Full-text available
Background and objectives: Impacts of mindfulness-based programs on blood pressure remain equivocal, possibly because the programs are not adapted to engage with determinants of hypertension, or due to floor effects. Primary objectives were to create a customized Mindfulness-Based Blood Pressure Reduction (MB-BP) program, and to evaluate acceptabi...
Preprint
In light of a growing interest in contemplative practices such as meditation, the emerging field of contemplative science has been challenged to describe and objectively measure how these practices affect health and well-being. While “mindfulness” itself has been proposed as a measurable outcome of contemplative practices, this concept encompasses...
Article
Rapid and accurate detection of threat is adaptive. Yet, threat-related attentional biases, including hypervigilance, avoidance, and attentional disengagement delays, may contribute to the etiology and maintenance of anxiety disorders. Behavioral measures of attentional bias generally indicate that threat demands more attentional resources; however...
Article
One potential pathway by which mindfulness-based meditation improves health outcomes is through changes in cognitive functioning. Here, we summarize and comment upon three systematic reviews conducted over the last seven years that have had the goal of identifying the impact of mindfulness on cognitive outcomes. In our analysis, we identified a num...
Article
Full-text available
The science of meditation has grown tremendously in the last two decades. Most studies have focused on evaluating the clinical effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions, neural and other physiological correlates of meditation, and individual cognitive and emotional aspects of meditation. Far less research has been conducted on more challengi...
Data
Meditation experiences survey. (PDF)
Data
Meditation experiences survey codebook. (PDF)
Preprint
One potential pathway by which mindfulness-based meditation improves health outcomes is through changes in cognitive functioning. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) was conducted with a focus on assessing the state of the evidence for effects on cognitive processes and associated assays. He...
Article
Full-text available
Psychology and neuroscience can benefit from inter-disciplinary insights and cross-cultural concepts. While this statement should be uncontroversial, some in the humanities and the sciences remain unconvinced. In contrast, we suggest that this kind of exchange is already occurring in some quarters of academia and that both the sciences and the huma...
Article
Full-text available
During the past two decades, mindfulness meditation has gone from being a fringe topic of scientific investigation to being an occasional replacement for psychotherapy, tool of corporate well-being, widely implemented educational practice, and “key to building more resilient soldiers.” Yet the mindfulness movement and empirical evidence supporting...
Article
Full-text available
In response to our article, Davidson and Dahl offer commentary and advice regarding additional topics crucial to a comprehensive prescriptive agenda for future research on mindfulness and meditation. Their commentary raises further challenges and provides an important complement to our article. More consideration of these issues is especially welco...
Article
Full-text available
In contemporary education, there is increasing interest in the potential of mindfulness-based training to improve mental health, behavior, and school performance, as part of fostering contemplative pedagogy that can positively impact the lives of young children. However, practice-based knowledge is lacking about how to implement mindfulness-based t...
Article
Full-text available
Various forms of self-loss have been described as aspects of mental illness (e.g., depersonalization disorder), but might self-loss also be related to mental health? In this integrative review and proposed organizational framework, we focus on self-transcendent experiences (STEs)—transient mental states marked by decreased self-salience and increas...
Article
Full-text available
We propose that Experiential Self-Referential Processing (ESRP) – the cognitive association of present moment subjective experience (e.g., sensations, emotions, thoughts) with the self – underlies various forms of maladaptation. We theorize that mindfulness contributes to mental health by engendering Experiential Selfless Processing (ESLP) – proces...
Article
Pain is a multidimensional experience that involves interacting sensory, cognitive, and affective factors, rendering the treatment of chronic pain challenging and financially burdensome. Further, the widespread use of opioids to treat chronic pain has led to an opioid epidemic characterized by exponential growth in opioid misuse and addiction. The...
Article
Mind wandering and mindfulness are often described as divergent mental states with opposing effects on cognitive performance and mental health. Spontaneous mind wandering is typically associated with self-reflective states that contribute to negative processing of the past, worrying/fantasizing about the future, and disruption of primary task perfo...
Article
Dynamic reflexivity is central to enabling flexible and emergent qualitatively driven inductive mixed-method and multiple methods research designs. Yet too often, such reflexivity, and how it is used at various points of a study, is absent when we write our research reports. Instead, reports of mixed-method and multiple methods research focus on wh...
Article
AimBorderline personality disorder (BPD) is characterized by self-regulation deficits, including impulsivity and affective lability. Transference-Focused Psychotherapy (TFP) is an evidence-based treatment proven to reduce symptoms across multiple cognitive-emotional domains in BPD. This pilot study aims to investigate neural activation associated w...
Article
Persecutory delusions are a clinically important symptom in schizophrenia associated with social avoidance and increased violence. Few studies have investigated the neurobiology of persecutory delusions, which is a prerequisite for developing novel treatments. The aim of this two-paradigm functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study is to cha...
Article
Dynamic reflexivity is central to enabling flexible and emergent qualitatively driven inductive mixed-method and multiple methods research designs. Yet too often, such reflexivity, and how it is used at various points of a study, is absent when we write our research reports. Instead, reports of mixed-method and multiple methods research focus on wh...
Article
Although somatosensory amplification is theorized to serve a critical role in somatization, it remains poorly understood neurobiologically. In this perspective article, convergent visceral-somatic processing is highlighted, and neuroimaging studies in somatoform disorders are reviewed. Neural correlates of cognitive-affective amplifiers are integra...
Poster
Full-text available
The goal of this feasibility study was to (a) develop a brief, in-class mindfulness training appropriate for at-risk youth and which integrated the school’s science curriculum; and (b) test initial exploratory hypotheses concerning whether mindfulness training bolstered social-emotional resilience. Findings suggest that brief mindfulness training s...
Article
Full-text available
Research suggesting the beneficial effects of yoga on myriad aspects of psychological health has proliferated in recent years, yet there is currently no overarching framework by which to understand yoga's potential beneficial effects. Here we provide a theoretical framework and systems-based network model of yoga that focuses on integration of top-...
Article
Full-text available
In light of a growing interest in contemplative practices such as meditation, the emerging field of contemplative science has been challenged to describe and objectively measure how these practices affect health and well-being. While “mindfulness” itself has been proposed as a measurable outcome of contemplative practices, this concept encompasses...
Article
First described for use in mapping the human visual cortex in 1991, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is based on blood-oxygen level dependent (BOLD) changes in cortical regions that occur during specific tasks. Typically, an overabundance of oxygenated (arterial) blood is supplied during activation of brain areas. Consequently, the veno...
Article
Full-text available
The current study investigated the effects of an 8-week mindfulness-based meditation training (MMT) intervention on attentional bias, engagement and disengagement of pain-related threat in fibromyalgia patients as compared to an age-matched control group. A well validated dot-probe task was used to explore early versus later stages of attentional p...
Article
Regional modulation of the level of cortical neurotransmitters in the brain would serve as a new functional brain mapping technique to interrogate the neurochemical actions of the brain. We investigated the utility of the application of low-intensity, pulsed sonication of focused ultrasound (FUS) to the brain to modulate the extracellular level of...
Article
Neurosurgical treatment of psychiatric disorders has been influenced by evolving neurobiological models of symptom generation. The advent of functional neuroimaging and advances in the neurosciences have revolutionized understanding of the functional neuroanatomy of psychiatric disorders. This article reviews neuroimaging studies of depression from...
Article
Subregional analyses of the hippocampus suggest CA1-dependent memory processes rely heavily upon interactions between the CA1 subregion and entorhinal cortex. There is evidence that the direct perforant path (pp) projection to CA1 is selectively modulated by dopamine while having little to no effect on the Schaffer collateral (SC) projection to CA1...
Article
Subregional analyses of the hippocampus have suggested a selective role for the CA1 subregion in intermediate/long-term spatial memory and consolidation, but not short-term acquisition or encoding processes. It remains unclear how the direct cortical projection to CA1 via the perforant path (pp) contributes to these CA1-dependent processes. It has...
Article
The cholinergic system has consistently been implicated in Pavlovian fear conditioning. Considerable work has been done to localize specific nicotinic receptor subtypes in the hippocampus and determine their functional importance; however, the specific function of many of these subtypes has yet to be determined. An alpha7 nicotinic antagonist methy...
Article
Rats were implanted bilaterally with cannulae into the dorsal hippocampus and trained in a Pavlovian fear-conditioning paradigm. Four groups of rats were infused intra-cranially with 1-(5'-isoquinolinesulfonyl)-2-methylpiperazine (H7-dihydrochloride), a potent inhibitor of both protein kinase C (PKC) and cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA), at diff...
Article
Lesions of the dorsal hippocampus have been shown to disrupt both the acquisition and the consolidation of memories associated with contextual fear (fear of the place of conditioning), but do not affect fear conditioning to discrete cues (e.g., a tone). Blockade of central muscarinic cholinergic receptor activation results in selective acquisition...

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Projects (7)
Project
Mindfulness-based Interventions (MBIs) are a family of standardized cognitive and behavioral therapies that focus on cultivating mindfulness-related skills for improving maladaptive cognitive, emotional, and behavioral processes. MBIs have been developed for a wide range of problems, disorders, and populations and are increasingly available in a variety of health settings. This mixed methods study proposes to investigate proposed neurobiological, physiological, psycho-social-behavioral, and cognitive mechanisms by which MBIs may improve health outcomes.