Richard J. Davidson's research while affiliated with University of Wisconsin–Madison and other places

Publications (644)

Article
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to increase resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) between the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), which is thought to reflect improvements in shifting attention to the present moment. However, prior research in long-term meditation practitioners lacked quantitativ...
Article
Previous research has demonstrated hippocampal alterations in individuals experiencing elevated stress. The Mnemonic Similarity Task (MST) is a hippocampal-dependent task sensitive to age-related hippocampal decline, but it is unknown how performance on this task is related to one’s experience of daily stress. We conducted separate discovery and re...
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The ratio of fronto-central theta (4-7 Hz) to beta oscillations (13-30 Hz), known as the theta-beta ratio, is negatively correlated with attentional control, reinforcement learning, executive function, and age. Although theta-beta ratios have been found to decrease with age in adolescents and young adults, theta has been found to increase with age...
Preprint
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs, i.e., abuse, neglect, household dysfunction) are associated with a wide range of long-lasting diseases and shorter life expectancy. We recently described a 1-week residential group program, based on mindfulness training, artistic expression and EMDR group therapy, that significantly reduced PTSD-related symptoms...
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Full-text available
Studies purporting to show changes in brain structure following the popular, 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course are widely referenced despite major methodological limitations. Here, we present findings from a large, combined dataset of two, three-arm randomized controlled trials with active and waitlist (WL) control groups. Med...
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Automatic race bias, which is the tendency to associate positive attributes more quickly with White as compared to Black faces, reflects enculturation processes linked to inequitable teaching behaviors. In sample of undergraduate preservice teachers (N = 88), we examined whether a novel mindfulness and connection practice intervention without anti-...
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Contemplative interventions designed to cultivate compassion are receiving increasing empirical attention. Accumulating evidence suggests that these interventions bolster prosocial motivation and warmth toward others. Less is known about how these practices impact compassion in everyday life. Here we consider one mechanistic pathway through which c...
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Background Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is accompanied by disrupted cortical neuroanatomy. We investigated alteration in covariance of structural networks associated with PTSD in regions that demonstrate the case-control differences in cortical thickness (CT) and surface area (SA). Methods Neuroimaging and clinical data were aggregated fro...
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Introduction: Subject head motion is an ongoing challenge in functional MRI, particularly in the estimation of functional connectivity. Infants (1-month old) scanned during non-sedated sleep often have occasional but large movements of several millimeters separated by periods with relatively little movement. This results in residual signal changes...
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Emotional Style (ES) refers is the unique way of experiencing emotions while going through life. The Emotional Style Questionnaire (ESQ) is a 24-item self-report measure that evaluate how people vary across the six dimensions of ES, providing an overall score of healthy emotionality. The present study aimed to validate the Italian version of ESQ. I...
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BACKGROUND Data from the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic raised concerns about pandemic impacts on college student mental health. However, early pandemic phase effects on mental health may be transient and high symptom prevalence rates, while alarming, may reflect a continuation of pre-pandemic trends rather than pandemic effects. OBJECTIVE...
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Background Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with markers of accelerated aging. Estimates of brain age, compared to chronological age, may clarify the effects of PTSD on the brain and may inform treatment approaches targeting the neurobiology of aging in the context of PTSD. Method Adult subjects (N = 2229; 56.2% male) aged 18–69...
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Relations between negative emodiversity (NED; the variety and relative abundance of negative emotions) with depression and anxiety were examined before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Forty-five individuals (ages 25-65) participated in two ecological momentary assessments (EMA): pre-pandemic and during-pandemic (Fall, 2020). Participants reported...
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Background Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with a wide range of diseases, unsafe behavior and shorter life expectancy. However, there is scarce evidence on effective interventions for children or adolescents who report multiple ACEs, including abuse, neglect and household dysfunction. Objective The aim of this study was to eval...
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Overall age of an individual is commonly measured in chronological time. With the advent of in vivo imaging and reliable predictive modeling, a finer gradation of the age into many internal biological scales such as cellular, tissue, organ and cognitive aging etc. can be estimated. Accurate estimation of the age of the in vivo brain can offer insig...
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Background: Firefighters are often exposed to occupational stressors that can result in psychological distress (ie, anxiety and depression) and burnout. These occupational stressors have only intensified with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and will likely persist in the postpandemic world. Objective: To address occupational stressors confron...
Preprint
BACKGROUND Firefighters are often exposed to occupational stressors that can result in psychological distress. These occupational stressors have only intensified with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and will likely persist in the post-pandemic world. OBJECTIVE To address occupational stressors confronting firefighters and to improve their well-...
Preprint
Contemplative interventions designed to cultivate compassion are receiving increasing empirical attention. Accumulating evidence suggests that these interventions bolster prosocial motivation and warmth towards others. Less is known about how these practices impact compassion in everyday life. Here we consider one mechanistic pathway through which...
Article
Psychological stress, an important contributor to asthma morbidity, potentiates the immune response to allergen, but the brain mechanisms mediating this response are not fully understood. The amygdala is likely to play an important role, given its sensitivity to threat and connectivity with descending immune modulatory pathways. In this study, we r...
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Greater engagement in a range of daily activities is associated with better cognitive functioning (Lee et al., Lee et al., 2020). The hippocampus, a subcortical brain structure implicated in learning, memory, spatial navigation and other aspects of cognitive functioning, may be structurally sensitive to exposure to and engagement with novel experie...
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The uncinate fasciculus is a white matter tract that may facilitate emotion regulation by carrying connections from the prefrontal cortex to regions of the temporal lobe, including the amygdala. Depression and anxiety are associated with reduced uncinate fasciculus fractional anisotropy (FA)-a diffusion tensor imaging measure related to white matte...
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Early career attrition from teaching disrupts school continuity, precludes many of those who leave the profession from achieving expertise, and drains limited economic resources from educational systems. Because low resource schools experience higher levels of teacher attrition, the phenomenon also contributes to inequitable educational opportuniti...
Preprint
Full-text available
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to increase resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) between the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), which is thought to reflect improvements in attention to the present moment. However, prior research in long-term meditation practitioners lacked quantitative measure...
Article
Full-text available
Unaddressed occupational stress and trauma contribute to elevated rates of mental illness and suicide in policing, and to violent and aggressive behavior that disproportionately impacts communities of color. Emerging evidence suggests mindfulness training with police may reduce stress and aggression and improve mental health, but there is limited e...
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Background: Epidemiological studies have shown that Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD) are seen more frequently with asthma, especially with greater asthma severity or exacerbation frequency. Objective: To examine the changes in brain structure that may underlie this phenomenon, we examined diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance ima...
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Abuse, neglect, exposure to violence, and other forms of early life adversity (ELA) are incredibly common and significantly impact physical and mental development. While important progress has been made in understanding the impacts of ELA on behavior and the brain, the preponderance of past work has primarily centered on threat processing and vigil...
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A growing number of studies have examined alterations in white matter organization in people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using diffusion MRI (dMRI), but the results have been mixed which may be partially due to relatively small sample sizes among studies. Altered structural connectivity may be both a neurobiological vulnerability for,...
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Studies of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) report volume abnormalities in multiple regions of the cerebral cortex. However, findings for many regions, particularly regions outside commonly studied emotion-related prefrontal, insular, and limbic regions, are inconsistent and tentative. Also, few studies address the possibility that PTSD abnorma...
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Objective: This study explores whether variability in the implementation of an undergraduate course on human flourishing is differentially associated with student outcomes. Participants: 101 students in the "Art and Science of Human Flourishing" course across three large, public, R1 universities in Fall 2018 participated in the study. Methods:...
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Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a complex psychiatric condition that has generated much attention in the neuroimaging literature. A neurocircuitry model supporting fronto-limbic dysfunction as a major player in facilitating clinical symptoms of PTSD is well-characterized; however, recent literature suggests that network-based approaches may...
Preprint
Full-text available
Studies purporting to show changes in brain structure following the popular, eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course are widely referenced despite major methodological limitations. Here, we present findings from a large, combined dataset of two, three-arm randomized controlled trials with active and waitlist (WL) control groups....
Article
Full-text available
Background Missing data are common in mobile health (mHealth) research. There has been little systematic investigation of how missingness is handled statistically in mHealth randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Although some missing data patterns (ie, missing at random [MAR]) may be adequately addressed using modern missing data methods such as mul...
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This commentary for this Special Issue on mindfulness highlights the progress and maturity of this growing field of scientific investigation and points the way toward important questions that require further study. Important methodological and implementation issues including the nature of proper comparison groups, the extension of mindfulness-based...
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Maternal and environmental factors influence brain networks and architecture via both physiological pathways and epigenetic modifications. In particular, prenatal maternal depression and anxiety symptoms appear to impact infant white matter (WM) microstructure, leading us to investigate whether epigenetic modifications (i.e., DNA methylation) contr...
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Objective Meditation practice and meditation-based psychotherapies have become increasingly popular. Although psychological benefits associated with meditation are well-documented, potential risks are unclear. Method We conducted a population-based survey to evaluate the occurrence of a broad range of meditation-related adverse effects (MRAE). Re...
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We hypothesized that college students who enrolled in the Art and Science of Human Flourishing (ASHF), a novel academic and experiential for-credit course on human flourishing, would demonstrate improved mental health and strengthen skills and behaviors associated with flourishing relative to control students. In a two-wave, multi-site, propensity-...
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The working alliance may be relevant in unguided smartphone-based interventions, but no validated measure exists. We evaluated the psychometric properties of the six-item Digital Working Alliance Inventory (DWAI) using a cross-sectional survey of meditation app users (n = 290) and the intervention arm of a randomized trial testing a smartphone-base...
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While the extraordinary pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic on student mental health have received considerable attention, less attention has been placed on the well-being of school system employees despite their vital role in society and the education of young people. The need for innovative mental health promotion strategies that are acceptable, a...
Preprint
Prior research has found the ratio of fronto‐central theta (4–7 Hz) and beta oscillations (13–30 Hz), known as the theta-beta ratio, to be negatively correlated with attentional control, reinforcement learning, executive function, and age. While theta-beta ratios have been found to decrease with age in adolescents and undergraduate samples, theta h...
Article
Neural dynamics in response to affective stimuli are linked to momentary emotional experiences. The amygdala, in particular, is involved in subjective emotional experience and assigning value to neutral stimuli. Because amygdala activity persistence following aversive events varies across individuals, some may more readily evaluate subsequent neutr...
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Full-text available
Introduction Cortical thickness (CT) and surface area (SA) are established biomarkers of brain pathology in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Structural covariance networks (SCN) constructed from CT and SA may represent developmental associations, or unique interactions between brain regions, possibly influenced by a common causal antecedent. T...
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In response to questions regarding the scientific basis for mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs), we evaluated their empirical status by systematically reviewing meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). We searched six databases for effect sizes based on four or more trials that did not combine passive and active controls. Heterogene...
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Interdependent self-construal (SC) is thought to lead to a more holistic cognitive style that emphasizes the processing of the background scene of a focal object. At present, little is known about whether the structural properties of the brain might underlie this functional relationship. Here, we examined the gray matter (GM) volume of three cortic...
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Full-text available
Mindfulness-based interventions that span multiple sessions over time appear to confer psychological benefits. However, the effects of brief periods of mindfulness meditation training are less clear, particularly on measures of cognitive functioning. This study assessed whether brief mindfulness practice (breath awareness) or training in two other...
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Recent EEG studies on the early postmortem interval that suggest the persistence of electrophysiological coherence and connectivity in the brain of animals and humans reinforce the need for further investigation of the relationship between the brain’s activity and the dying process. Neuroscience is now in a position to empirically evaluate the exte...
Preprint
BACKGROUND Missing data are common in mobile health (mHealth) research. There has been little systematic investigation of how missingness is handled statistically in mHealth randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Although some missing data patterns (ie, missing at random [MAR]) may be adequately addressed using modern missing data methods such as mul...
Article
Full-text available
The hippocampus, implicated in learning, memory, and spatial navigation, is one of the few brain structures that demonstrates neurogenesis across the lifespan. Hippocampal volume (HV), then, may be a marker of exposure to and engagement with novel events and environments, which may in turn be related to cognitive functioning. The present study exam...
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Research indicates that core dimensions of psychological well-being can be cultivated through intentional mental training. Despite growing research in this area and an increasing number of interventions designed to improve psychological well-being, the field lacks a unifying framework that clarifies the dimensions of human flourishing that can be c...
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Background A growing number of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) suggest psychological benefits associated with meditation training delivered via mobile health. However, research in this area has primarily focused on mindfulness, only one of many meditative techniques. Objective This study aims to evaluate the efficacy of 2 versions of a self-gu...
Preprint
BACKGROUND A growing number of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) suggest psychological benefits associated with meditation training delivered via mobile health. However, research in this area has primarily focused on mindfulness, only one of many meditative techniques. OBJECTIVE This study aims to evaluate the efficacy of 2 versions of a self-gu...
Article
Objective Research suggests that higher childhood self‐regulation (CSR) predicts lower adiposity in adolescence. However, it is unclear whether this relationship differs by sex or by baseline weight status. Thus, this study investigated these questions in a longitudinal, community‐based cohort. Methods The cohort included 221 girls and 214 boys. A...
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Background Given the prevalence of adolescent depression and the modest effects of current treatments, research ought to inform development of effective intervention strategies. Self-compassion is inversely associated with depression, and self-compassion interventions have demonstrated promising effects on reducing depression. However, little is kn...
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Metacognitive awareness—the ability to know that one is having a particular experience—is thought to guide optimal behavior, but its neural bases continue to be the subject of vigorous debate. Prior work has identified correlations between perceptual metacognitive ability and the structure and function of lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC); however,...
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Early infancy is characterized by rapid brain development that occurs alongside, and in response to, the development of cognitive and behavioral functions, including attention. Infants’ ability to orient and sustain attention to stimuli develops in concert with refinement of the orienting network in frontoparietal regions of the brain. Infants (n =...
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Emodiversity, or the variety and relative abundance of emotions experienced, provides a metric that can be used to understand emotional experience and its relation to well-being above and beyond average levels of positive and negative affect. Past research has found that more diverse emotional experiences, both positive and negative, are related to...
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Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche (YMR) is a Tibetan Buddhist monk, and renowned meditation practitioner and teacher who has spent an extraordinary number of hours of his life meditating. The brain-aging profile of this expert meditator in comparison to a control population was examined using a machine learning framework, which estimates “brain-age” from bra...
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While rodent research suggests that the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) and centromedial amygdala (CM) coordinate the hormonal stress response, little is known about the BNST's role in the human stress response. The human BNST responds to negatively-valenced stimuli, which likely subserves its role in responding to threat. Thus, variatio...
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Teachers vary in their ability to enact effective teaching practices. We randomly assigned 88 early education preservice teachers to standard teacher education or teacher education plus a 9-week mindfulness-based intervention. Using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) as our primary outcome, we assessed effective teaching practices at b...
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Mindfulness training has been shown to improve attention and change the underlying brain substrates in adults. Most mindfulness training programs involve a myriad of techniques, and it is difficult to attribute changes to any particular aspect of the program. Here, we created a video game, Tenacity, which models a specific mindfulness technique – f...
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The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) and central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) are hypothesized to be the output nodes of the extended amygdala threat response, integrating multiple signals to coordinate the threat response via outputs to the hypothalamus and brainstem. The BNST and CeA are structurally and functionally connected, suggest...
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Law enforcement officers are regularly exposed directly and indirectly to a wide variety of traumatic stressors, which take place against a backdrop of high levels of organizational stressors. Consequently, this group is at elevated risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other negative physical and mental health outcomes, yet there are f...