2019 EVA Recipients & Projects

Overview (click on the name to read the abstract)

Tatiana de Castro Amato Locatelli

The FO-CO Programme: Development of Contemplative Practices and Scientific Assessment Plan

UNIFESP/NEPSIS, São Paulo, Brazil

Jonathan Hamilton

Using Sustained Mindfulness Training to Change Brain Functioning in Patients with Persistent Depression

University of Surrey, United Kingdom

Catherine Juneau

Investigating the Relationship between Equanimity and Automatic Emotional and Motivational Reactions

LAPSCO Université Clermont Auvergne, France

Léa Martinon

Realtime Neuroimaging of Mental States: Enhancing Wellbeing by Shifting Individuals’ Mode of Self-Consciousness

LAPSCO Université Clermont Auvergne, France

Lena Ramstetter

Meeting Global Challenges from the Inside Out: Tracing the Effects of Mindfulness on Climate Change Attitudes and Actions

University Salzburg, Austria

Julio Rodriguez Larios

Integrating Brain, Body and Phenomenology to Investigate Mind Wandering Eposides During Breath Focus Meditation: An Experience Sampling Study with Mindfulness Practitioners and Novices

KU Leuven, Belgium

Mareike Smolka

Tracing Collaborative Reflection Moment-To-Moment: Bringing Science & Technology Studies to Contemplative Science and Vice Versa

Maastricht University, the Netherlands

Kim Lien van der Schans

The Dynamics of Mindful Conflict in Romantic Relationships

Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Tatiana de Castro Amato Locatelli - UNIFESP/NEPSIS, São Paulo, Brazil

The FO-CO Programme: Development of Contemplative Practices and Scientific Assessment Plan

Socioemotional learning and mindfulness-based programmes has shown benefits for positive outcomes to adolescents in schools. Nonviolent communication is an interesting approach to build Culture of Peace, but lacks evidence. The combination of the three may bolster selfregulation, compassionate living and engagement in a peaceful culture.

Aim: To define contemplative practices to be inserted into the FO-CO programme appropriate for adolescents, as well as identify indicators and methods for further evaluation of the process and results of the programme.

Methods: The FO-CO programme is being developed based on evidence-based school programs framework in four-steps: 1) Notification, 2) Development, 3) Assessment and 4) Dissemination. The programme is in step 2-development, which involves: the development, design, pre-testing and trial intervention. The current proposal advances in the phase of design and it is divided into two subsequent stages. In stage 1 – program development, we are using qualitative action-research methods. In stage 2 – assessment development will be based on the assessment intervention development to build indicators for process evaluation and indicators for the outcomes of the programme based on scientific paradigma of neurophenomenology.

Impact: The differential of this project is the creation of a scientifically evaluable programme that associates the teaching of contemplative practices not only to wellbeing, but to a broader education to provide a greater connection between people, culture of peace, ethics, non-violence and compassionate living. Likewise, it is a free and universal programme with the potential to disseminate to a continental-size country with challenges of social inequality and violence.

Jonathan Hamilton - University of Surrey, United Kingdom

Using Sustained Mindfulness Training to Change Brain Functioning in Patients with Persistent Depression

Depression is a major contributor to the burden of disease world-wide and poses a considerable challenge for treatment. About a third of those affected develop a course in which the disorder tends to become increasingly chronic or recurrent. Research shows that in these cases, progressive changes in brain structure and functioning occur that undermine adaptive responses to stress and prevent recovery. Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) may be particularly promising in addressing such trajectories and reverse latent vulnerabilities. However, recent research suggests that effects of MBIs in depressed patients are contingent on sustained practice and it remains unclear at what stage of practice changes in underlying vulnerabilities may become visible.

It is important to find ways of supporting patients in their practice beyond the standard duration of MBIs and align interventions with potential trajectories of change. To address these challenges, we will 1) finalise the development of, and test, a blended MBI program combining digital components with therapist contact that supports patients in sustained practice and 2) use this intervention to map the trajectory of changes in relevant aspects of brain function and connectivity as patients continue to practise over a period of six months. The research will provide an initial step in the process of introducing a novel MBI to support patients in sustained practice and offer insights into the potential of sustained practice to reverse latent vulnerabilities. Results from this research will help to increase our understanding of how best to harness the potential of mindfulness training for these patients.

Catherine Juneau - LAPSCO Université Clermont Auvergne, France

Investigating the Relationship between Equanimity and Automatic Emotional and Motivational Reactions

According to the Buddhist view, mindfulness meditation is a way to achieve attentional, emotional and cognitive balance in the mind (Ekman, Davidson, Ricard and Wallace, 2005). Recently, some authors in psychology have also introduced the concept of equanimity and described it as a significant outcome of mindfulness practices (Desbordes et al., 2015). As a cognitive psychologist, my research question is about how certain people can have unbiased and balanced responses to stimuli that usually provoke extreme reactions in the general population.

Past results have shown that indeed, greater equanimity as described above (see Juneau et al., 2019) is related to less extreme assessments of the valence of stimuli that are generally assessed as very positive or very negative, and to less biased automatic motor responses of approach and avoidance to negative and partially, positive stimuli. Thus, the aim of this project is to study the quality of equanimity in automatic emotional and motivational responses and to focus on positive stimuli by differentiating them according to their degree of motivational intensity and motivational orientation. The protocol will be conducted in two stages and two cognitive tasks will be used to measure automatic affective evaluations and motivational responses to stimuli. As the study of the concept of equanimity in psychology is new, much remains to be discovered about its processes and effects. Indeed, equanimity appears, among other things, as a useful quality for preventing unhealthy and addictive behaviours by allow a better emotional regulation.

Léa Martinon - LAPSCO Université Clermont Auvergne, France

Realtime neuroimaging of mental states: enhancing wellbeing by shifting individuals’ mode of self-consciousness

People’s well-being is a central public health concern. Research suggests that the mode of self-consciousness in one’s mental states is a key player in individuals’ well-being. Specifically, it has been postulated that adopting a selflessness approach to life, characterised by de-identification from mental contents, enables wellbeing. In contrast, the common tendency to be self-centred, related to high rates of mind-wandering experiences, can increase stress, anxiety and depression. The objective of this project is to clarify the temporal, phenomenological and neurological characteristics of different mental states – specifically their related self-consciousness. Then, using a continuous and real-time electrophysiological marker, predictions of participants’ mental states will be enabled.
To this purpose, three studies will be carried out. The first two will aim to capture the neural activity of different mental states as one is guided into three different modes of self-consciousness. This will be carried out once with novice meditators and the replicated with expert meditators. The last study will focus on developing a new machine learning programme. Integrating real-time electrophysiological measures and participants’ answers to intermittent thought probes will thereby allow prediction of participants’ mental states. The success of this project is based on the combined expertise of the Israelite and French teams on mental states and modes of self-experience from a neurocognitive and psychological perspective, respectively. Ultimately, this collaborative European project will contribute both to the theoretical issues of self-experience in different mental states and aid the development of a new tool to alter self-experience and improve wellbeing.

Lena Ramstetter - University Salzburg, Austria

Meeting Global Challenges from the Inside Out: Tracing the Effects of Mindfulness on Climate Change Attitudes and Actions

During the last few decades, mindfulness has moved from the margins of scientific investigation right into its center. Psychological research suggests that both trait mindfulness as well as mindfulness training can raise positive mood, reduce anxiety and perceived threat, and improve emotion regulation. These effects may help overcome political polarization and provide fertile ground for respectful and constructive conversations about pressing issues like climate change. So far, political science has been agnostic about mindfulness as a potential explanatory factor of political attitudes and actions.

To fill this gap in research, we follow a two-step empirical approach: a first study provides correlational evidence for an effect of mindfulness on political attitudes drawing on a nationally representative US-sample via Amazon MTurk. Two randomized controlled trials with an 8-week mindfulness-based intervention and an active control condition provide experimental evidence for a causal effect of mindfulness on changes in political attitudes. These insights in the political dimension of mindfulness could provide a track for overcoming societal challenges. By increasing pro-social qualities like compassion, perspective-taking, and by reducing biases due to motivated reasoning, mindfulness might depolarize societies, and help them solve problems they previously could not agree on.

Julio Rodriguez Larios - KU Leuven, Belgium

Integrating Brain, Body and Phenomenology to Investigate Mind Wandering Episodes during Breath Focus Meditation: An Experience Sampling Study with Mindfulness Practitioners and Novices

In the last years, the neural correlates of task-unrelated thought have been frequently investigated through experience sampling paradigms in which participants are probed while performing different cognitive tasks. Although these paradigms have greatly contributed to our understanding of task-unrelated thought, they have commonly overlooked its experiential and embodied components. An embodied neurophenomenological approach to mind wandering could overcome some of the limitations of previously adopted paradigms. Given their heightened meta-awareness, experienced meditators could provide more accurate descriptions of mind wandering episodes thereby facilitating the integration between their neurophysiological and phenomenological components.

In this project, electroencephalography (EEG), electrocardiography (ECG), skin conductance and respiration will be recorded in 30 experienced meditators and 30 meditation-naïve controls during a breath focus meditation task in which participants are probed to report their mind wandering experience. The interaction between oscillatory rhythms of the brain (EEG) and the body (heart rate, respiration) will be assessed in relation to experiential components of mind wandering. In the light of previous neurophysiological and phenomenological research, it is hypothesized that mind-wandering episodes during breath focus meditation will be related to increased interaction between brain rhythms and decreased interaction between brain and bodily rhythms. In addition, it is expected that the level of mind wandering immersion and its content will be positively correlated to the degree of interaction between specific brain rhythms. Crucially, these correlations are expected to be only significant in experienced meditators thereby highlighting how training in contemplative practice facilitates the integration of neurophysiological and phenomenological data.

Mareike Smolka - Maastricht University, the Netherlands

Tracing Collaborative Reflection Moment-to-Moment: Bringing Science & Technology Studies to Contemplative Science and Vice Versa

Over the last decade, we have observed an increasing demand for reflection on professional practice, especially in science and technology development which have had problematic societal impacts. In response, Science & Technology Studies (STS) scholars have proposed approaches to collaboratively assist professionals in reflection. Yet, approaches to collaborative reflection often fail to be effective for socially responsive problem-solving and we lack knowledge on how collaborative reflection occurs. To study and improve the process of collaborative reflection, we combine third- and first-person perspectives. We trace how collaborative reflection is enacted and experienced moment-to-moment among highly reflective practitioners. We find these practitioners in the contemplative science community because most of its members are familiar with practices that build capacities for reflection, including meditation and coping with complex tasks.

To learn from the reflective competences of this community, we organise a workshop at a local hub for contemplative science: a Mind-Brain-Mindfulness Intercity Seminar 2020. Workshop participants collaborate in audio-recorded reflection exercises and take part in interpretive phenomenological interviews to reconstruct their experience of collaborative reflection and its interpersonal dimension. The interpersonal dimension is an important but understudied part of collaborative reflection that can facilitate or interfere with reflection. This study aims to bring STS to contemplative science and vice versa. We open reflective practices of contemplative science community members to STS knowledge production and contribute to the scarce sociological literature on contemplative science. In turn, STS knowledge production informs contemplative science community members about dormant reflective competences which are animated in collaborative reflection.

Kim Lien van der Schans - Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands

The Dynamics of Mindful Conflict in Romantic Relationships

Mindfulness benefits romantic relationships, by increasing relationship satisfaction and longevity. Yet it is unclear how mindfulness benefits how we interact with our loved ones face-to-face. So far, mindfulness research mostly relied on self-reported measures of both mindfulness and interpersonal tendencies, but has neglected the dynamic interplay of the interaction as it unfolds across moments. As both the practice of mindfulness as well as our interpersonal interactions proceed moment-by-moment, it seems crucial to further understand how the dynamics of mindfulness practice manifests itself in the dynamics of interpersonal interactions.

To this end, we integrate contemplative science, social psychology and dynamic system theory to examine the possible benefits of mindfulness practice on the dynamic interplay of real-life interpersonal interactions among romantic couples. We will 1) recruit couples of which one member has engaged in a mindfulness practice and control couples who have not engaged in mindfulness practices, and 2) observe a conflict discussion. We hypothesize that couples with mindfulness expertise will show less negative emotions and more flexibility in their dyadic behaviour during and facilitated recovery after the conflict discussion in comparison to control couples. This project will allow for a unique and exciting opportunity to examine more closely whether and how mindfulness skills are applied in day-to-day dynamic interpersonal interactions as they unfold in real-time, and will ultimately inform future research and interventions on how to cultivate positive interpersonal behaviour more generally.