2020 EVA Recipients & Projects

Overview (click on the name to read the abstract)

Constanza Baquedano

A Mindful Mental Vaccine for the Neuromarketing Virus? Assessing the Protective Effect of a Brief Mindful Instruction to Prevent Desires Generated by Advertising in the Food Domain 

Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile 

Prisca Bauer

PRESENCE Prodrome Recognition in Epilepsy and its Neurophenomenological Correlates

Universitätsklinikum Freiburg, Germany

Ema Demšar

Towards the Neurophenomenology of Dreaming: Developing and Employing a Novel Interview-Based Research Format for Acquiring Reports on Lucid and Nonlucid Dream Experience

Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Jonas Mago

Practicing Plasticity: How Collective Rituals Promote Neuro Cognitive Flexibility

McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Shannon Maloney

Effectiveness of ‘Deepening and Sustaining Mindfulness for Life’ Programme Compared to Wait-list Control in the Promotion of Well-being and Mental Health: A Randomised Controlled Trial with Graduates of MBCT and MBSR

University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Betül Tatar

Bringing Brief Mindfulness Instructions into Daily Life Encounters with Food

University of Glasgow, United Kingdom

Constanza Baquedano - Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile

A Mindful Mental Vaccine for the Neuromarketing Virus? Assessing the Protective Effect of a Brief Mindful Instruction to Prevent Desires Generated by Advertising in the Food Domain

Subjective realism is common in everyday life, for example, just reading or viewing attractive food items is enough to trigger activation in taste and reward areas in the brain and increase food cravings. On the contrary, dereification, that is, the realization that this experience with food stimuli is a mere transitory mental event, reduces reward simulations and approach behaviors towards food. Advertising exposes images and messages that encourage the acquisition and consumption of food. It is known that “obesogenic” environments play a role in overweight and obesity.  

In this study, our objective is to determine to what extent advertising increases subjective realism and desires towards food, and whether a brief-mindful instruction promoting dereification is able to counteract the desires induced by advertising. To address this question, we will use a paradigm of food involvement developed by Papies et al (2012), and used in Baquedano et al (2017 & 2019), with Chilean population. Our hypothesis is that advertising will increase the unconscious desires and automatic impulses towards advertised foods and that a brief-mindful instruction will be able to counteract those. The results of this research, could be a substrate to develop a brief intervention to prevent consumption desires triggered by advertising.

Prisca Bauer - Universitätsklinikum Freiburg, Germany

PRESENCE Prodrome Recognition in Epilepsy and its Neurophenomenological Correlates  

Epilepsy is a complex neurological condition that affects about 1% of the global population. It is characterised by an enduring predisposition to epileptic seizures. One in three people continue to have seizures despite treatment with anti-seizure medication. While most people with epilepsy have infrequent seizures, the fact that these are unpredictable is a major issue that can cause high levels of anxiety. Current methods of seizure prediction are based on detecting signals of the brain and the body, but none of these approaches have led to implementable results.  

The aim of this study is to take the first-person experience of people with epilepsy as a starting point to improve seizure awareness and prediction and manage seizure-related anxiety. I will conduct a qualitative neurophenomenological study in people with pharmaco-resistant epilepsy who are on the waiting list for clinical video-EEG monitoring. They will be offered mindfulness training and will be interviewed about their seizures using the microphenomenological method to identify precursor signs. During the video-EEG monitoring, interviews will be conducted, allowing the investigation of the relation between electroencephalographic correlates (EEG patterns) and subjective phenomena and the co-construction between them. This may not only help people with epilepsy deal with their illness and pave the way for novel seizure prediction algorithms, but it also addresses fundamental questions about the relationship between the mind and the brain. This study is an attempt at continuing Francisco Varela’s work on neurophenomenology in a clinical environment.

Ema Demšar - Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Towards the Neurophenomenology of Dreaming: Developing and Employing a Novel Interview-Based Research Format for Acquiring Reports on Lucid and Nonlucid Dream Experience 

The proposed research aims to advance the neurophenomenological approach to the study of dreaming. It is comprised of two parallel studies investigating dream experience in general (Study 1) and experience of dream lucidity in particular (Study 2). Both studies are designed as iterative, longitudinal phenomenological investigations, conducted in collaboration with a small number of actively engaged participants. While this research can be carried out entirely online, it will ideally also include lab-based piloting, and in turn inform a large-powered neuroscientific study of lucid and nonlucid dreaming.

Study 1 will develop and apply a novel, two-stage method for acquiring dream reports, consisting of: (a) shorter interviews, conducted upon night-time awakenings, and (b) a longer interview about all recalled dream episodes, conducted in the morning.  

Study 2 will investigate shorter experiential episodes surrounding the onset of meta-awareness in lucid dreaming; the interview method will be refined in collaboration with participants throughout the course of the research. The interview methods developed in both studies will meet the constraints of typical protocols for data acquisition in the sleep laboratory, and will be therefore ideally suited for a neurophenomenological investigation of dreaming in combination with third-person methods such as electroencephalography and functional magnetic resonance; they will also be applicable in the home setting. 

In addition to this substantial methodological contribution to the field of dream research, the project will also provide a phenomenological clarification of dream lucidity, importantly contributing to the field of consciousness studies by informing future research on meta-awareness in dreaming and waking. 

Jonas Mago - McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Practicing Plasticity: How Collective Rituals Promote Neuro Cognitive Flexibility

Prayer is a cornerstone of contemplative life around the world and can be practiced in solitude or as a collective ritual. However, despite the widespread occurrence of prayer, the cognitive mechanisms of prayer in general and prayer as a collective practice in particular remain largely unknown. The ethnographic record suggests that collective contemplative practices serve one of two key cultural functions. On the one hand, many contemplative practices are designed to relax habitual constraints and open a space for novel patterns of thought and action to emerge. On the other hand, some contemplative practices promote social cohesion and uniformity of thought and behavior.

We will investigate these two distinct social functions of contemplative practice by comparing two different types of prayer from the same contemplative tradition: (1) charismatic prayer as an exemplar of a flexible practice aimed at enhancing neurocognitive flexibility and (2) rehearsed prayer as a more rigid practice that fosters a more constrained cognitive state. We predict that both types of collective prayer will promote intersubjective synchrony as measured by self-reports, EEG hyperscanning and cardiovascular monitoring, but that only the flexible prayer (charismatic prayer) will increase cognitive plasticity (measured by behavioral tasks and self-report) and brain entropy (measured by EEG).

This study will advance knowledge of how collective, intersubjective dynamics shape the phenomenology and neurobiology of prayer. Beyond illuminating Christian practice, our project will lay a methodological groundwork for future studies examining the crucial yet understudied role of collective practice in nearly all contemplative traditions.

Shannon Maloney - University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Effectiveness of ‘Deepening and Sustaining Mindfulness for Life’ Programme Compared to Wait-list Control in the Promotion of Well-being and Mental Health: A Randomised Controlled Trial with Graduates of MBCT and MBSR  

Meta-analyses have demonstrated that mindfulness-based programmes are more effective than no treatment and active controls across different populations and desired outcomes yet there is limited evidence on how to sustain these benefits beyond the traditional eight-week courses. The Deepening and Sustaining Mindfulness for Life programme was developed by the University of Oxford Mindfulness Centre to help reinforce and deepen one’s mindfulness practice to promote well-being and mental health for life.  

The proposed study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of this programme in graduates of MBCT/MBSR on well-being and mental health outcomes and explore the mediators (i.e. mindfulness, decentring, and self-compassion) through which this programme has an effect over the course of twelve weeks using a randomised controlled trial with wait-list control, time-contingent experience-sampling methods, and first-person subjective reports of trained observers. The planned research is part of an overall effort to optimize treatment effects and the long-term effectiveness of mindfulness-based programmes.

Betül Tatar - University of Glasgow, United Kingdom

Bringing Brief Mindfulness Instructions into Daily Life Encounters with Food  

Brief mindfulness interventions have been suggested as a tool to improve individuals’ relationship with food, by reducing cravings and changing how these cravings are viewed. However, much of this research has been carried out in the laboratory, using cross-sectional quantitative approaches. This highlights the need for gaining an in-depth, phenomenological understanding of these experiences over time. Here, we incorporate principles of contemplative science and social and cognitive psychology to examine what and how non-meditators learn through brief mindfulness interventions, and how they apply this to encounters with food in their daily lives.  

For this study with a novel longitudinal qualitative approach that combines first- and third-person perspectives, we will (1) recruit non-meditators, (2) teach them either brief mindfulness or control instructions, (3) interview them about their initial experiences of learning and applying the instructions, (4) collect daily diary data for two weeks, and (5) conduct focus group discussions to facilitate and document a collective meaning-making process around these experiences. We hypothesize that compared to the control condition, participants in the mindfulness condition will experience a shift in the way they relate to their vivid food experiences. Further, their subjective experience of applying brief mindfulness in moments of food temptation may become easier over time, and with continued practice. Ultimately, this project will cultivate new insights by situating brief mindfulness practices within the rich experiences of daily life. This may inform future research practices, and lead to the development of effective brief interventions in the domain of nutrition and eating behaviors.