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07-10-2020 | ORIGINAL PAPER | Uitgave 1/2021

Mindfulness 1/2021

The Impact of App-Delivered Mindfulness Meditation on Functional Connectivity and Self-Reported Mindfulness Among Health Profession Trainees

Mindfulness > Uitgave 1/2021
Jeremy L. Smith, Jason W. Allen, Carla Haack, Kathryn Wehrmeyer, Kayley Alden, Maha B. Lund, Jennifer S. Mascaro
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s12671-020-01502-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Previous research indicates that mindfulness meditation reduces anxiety and depression and enhances well-being. We examined the impact of app-delivered mindfulness meditation on resting state functional MRI (fMRI) connectivity among physician assistant (PA) students and surgery residents.


PA students and residents were randomized to receive a popular meditation app or to wait-list control group. Before and after the 8-week meditation period, we acquired fMRI scans of participants’ resting state, and participants completed a self-report measure of mindfulness. We used a 2 × 2, within- and between-group factorial design and leveraged a whole-brain connectome approach to examine changes in within- and between-network connectivity across the entire brain, and to examine whether changes in connectivity were associated with app use or to changes in self-reported mindfulness.


Meditation practitioners exhibited significantly stronger connectivity between the frontoparietal network and the left and right nucleus accumbens and between the default mode (DMN) and salience networks, among other regions. Mindfulness practice time was correlated with increased connectivity between the lateral parietal cortex and the supramarginal gyrus, which were also positively correlated with increased scores on the “Describing” subscale of the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire between baseline and post-meditation. These findings are consistent with previous research indicating that mindfulness-based interventions alter functional connectivity within the DMN and between the DMN and other networks both during meditation and at rest, as well as increased connectivity in systems important for emotion and reward.


Recent commentaries call for healthcare provider and trainee wellness programs that are sustainable and preventive in nature rather than reactive; these data indicate that even brief sessions of app-delivered mindfulness practice are associated with functional connectivity changes in a dose-dependent manner.

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