UCSD Mindfulness Research Program

Aerial View

What We Do

Mindfulness-based research has grown exponentially in the last 20 years and been found to significantly improve a wide spectrum of health outcomes, increase empathy/altruistic behaviors, curb addiction and increase well-being. The newly developed research program at the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness is premised on expanding on this work by examining the efficacy of mindfulness therapies on a range of clinical conditions, assess the role of mindfulness and compassion training on well-being, and identifying the active mechanisms of action supporting mindfulness and contemplative-based practices employing rigorous research methodologies and techniques. We have established an internationally recognized team of experts within and outside of UCSD to accomplish these goals. We aim to appreciate if and how mindfulness alleviates suffering but also to better bridge explanatory gaps focused on identifying how mindfulness works, for what clinical populations, delivery methods, and durations, and the corresponding psychological and physiological processes. We employ novel psychological, neuroimaging, and physiological methodologies in a multimodal and interdisciplinary approach to best address these goals. 

Ongoing Projects

Brain mechanisms supporting empathy cultivation, compassion development, and pain-relief by compassion-based mental training

Mindfulness Intervention: Brain mechanisms supporting empathy cultivation, compassion development, and pain-relief by compassion-based mental training 

Target Health Outcomes: Examine psychophysical and neural mechanisms evoked by each respective meditative technique during noxious heat stimulation and if these mechanisms are modified by training dosage 

Summary: Are you in a committed, monogamous relationship and interested in learning mindfulness meditation? Researchers at the University of California at San Diego are looking to recruit healthy females and their monogamous romantic partner of at least three months to participate in a study examining if and how mindfulness-based mental training affects psychological, neural and inflammatory processes supporting the feeling of pain and health. Participants will undergo heat stimulation that may produce the feeling of pain during an MRI scan, blood draw and participate in standardized mindfulness meditation intervention. Participants will be financially compensated for their time.  

Principal Investigator: Fadel Zeidan 

The effects of mental training on physical and psychological well-being

Mindfulness Intervention: The effects of mental training on physical and psychological well-being 

Target Health Outcomes: Determine if mindfulness and compassion-based training improves well-being. 

Summary: A collaborative training opportunity from the Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training and the University of California San Diego (UCSD) on mindfulness-based stress management training.  POST Certified and CPT-eligible training for sworn California Peace Officers will be offered. You must be 18 years of age and serve as a law enforcement officers in California. Researchers at UCSD are also measuring the effects of different mental training regiments on well-being. Participants will be asked to provide confidential, de-identified answers to a number of surveys. 

Principal Investigator: Gene Kallenberg 

Dissecting the effects of meditative techniques on empathy, compassion and health

Mindfulness Intervention: Dissecting the effects of meditative techniques on empathy, compassion and health 

Target Health Outcomes: Examine the behavioral and neural mechanisms supporting the operational practice of these techniques 

Summary: Are you interested in learning meditation? Researchers at the University of California at San Diego are conducting a study on the psychological effects of mental training on individuals’ well-being, using Zoom. Participants will complete short study assessments, before and after meditation trainings. 

Principal Investigator: Fadel Zeidan

Chronic low back pain and mindfulness meditation 

Mindfulness Intervention: Chronic low back pain and mindfulness meditation 

Target Health Outcomes: Evaluation of effect of mindfulness-based mental training on pain 

Summary: Researchers are conducting a study in individual with chronic low back pain who are currently not taking opiate medications. Participants receive intravenous administration of saline or naloxone, a safe (FDA approved drug) that blocks the body’s opiate system from working. Participants will undergo bodily maneuvers (that may produce the feeling of pain), administration of saline and/or naloxone, and cognitive testing. Participants will be compensated $400 for completing the 7-part study. 

Principal Investigator: Fadel Zeidan 

Publications

The role of heart rate variability in mindfulness-based pain relief

Adler-Neal, A.L., Waugh, C.E., Garland, E.L., Shaltout, H.A., Diz, D.I., & Zeidan, F. (2019). The role of heart rate variability in mindfulness-based pain relief. The Journal of Pain, 0:1-18.  

DOWNLOAD PDF  

The neural mechanisms of mindfulness-based pain relief: a functional magnetic resonance imaging-based review and primer

Zeidan, F, Baumgartner, J.N., & Coghill, R.C. (2019). The neural mechanisms of mindfulness-based pain relief: a functional magnetic resonance imaging-based review and primer. Pain Reports, 4: 1-11.   

DOWNLOAD PDF  

Brain moderators supporting the relationship between depressive mood and pain

Adler-Neal, A.L., Emerson, N.M., Farris, S.R., Jung, Y., Coghill, R.C., & Zeidan, F. (2019). Brain moderators supporting the relationship between depressive mood and pain. Pain, 0: 1-8.  

DOWNLOAD PDF   

Employing pain and mindfulness to understand consciousness: a symbiotic relationship

Grant, J. A., & Zeidan, F. (2019). Employing pain and mindfulness to understand consciousness: a symbiotic relationship. Current Opinion in Psychology, 28: 192-197.    

DOWNLOAD PDF 

Neural mechanisms supporting the relationship between dispositional mindfulness and pain

Zeidan, F., Salomons, T., Farris, S.R., Emerson, N.M., Adler-Neal, A., Jung, Y., Coghill, R.C. (2018). Neural mechanisms supporting the relationship between dispositional mindfulness and pain. Pain, 159(12): 2477-2485.  

DOWNLOAD PDF 

Enhancement of meditation analgesia by opioid antagonist in experienced meditators

May, L.M., Kosek, P., Zeidan, F., & Berkman, E.T. (2018). Enhancement of meditation analgesia by opioid antagonist in experienced meditators. Psychosomatic Medicine. 

DOWNLOAD PDF 

Mindfulness meditation for fibromyalgia: Mechanistic and clinical considerations

Adler-Neal, A.L. & Zeidan, F. (2017). Mindfulness meditation for fibromyalgia: Mechanistic and clinical considerations. Current Rheumatology Reports 19: 59.  

DOWNLOAD PDF 

Mindfulness meditation–based pain relief: A mechanistic account

Zeidan, F., & Vago, D. (2016). Mindfulness meditation–based pain relief: A mechanistic account. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1373(1), 114–127.  

DOWNLOAD PDF 

The brain on silent: Mind wandering, mindful awareness and states of mental tranquility

Vago, D. R., & Zeidan, F. (2016). The brain on silent: Mind wandering, mindful awareness and states of mental tranquility. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1373: 96–113.   

DOWNLOAD PDF 

Mindfulness-meditation-based pain relief is not mediated by endogenous opioids 

Zeidan, F., Adler-Neal, A., Wells, R.W., Stagnate, E., May, L., Eisenach, J.C., McHaffie, J.G., & Coghill, R.C. (2016). Mindfulness-meditation-based pain relief is not mediated by endogenous opioids. The Journal of Neuroscience, 36(11): 3391–3397.  

DOWNLOAD PDF 

No, mindfulness meditation-based analgesia is not mediated by endogenous opioids

Zeidan, F. (2016). No, mindfulness meditation-based analgesia is not mediated by endogenous opioids. The American Journal of Medicine, 129(11), e297. 

DOWNLOAD PDF 

Mindfulness meditation-based pain relief employs different neural mechanisms than placebo and sham mindfulness meditation-induced analgesia

Zeidan, F., Emerson, N.M., Farris, S.R., Ray, J. N., Jung, Y., McHaffie, J. G., & Coghill, R. C. (2015). Mindfulness meditation-based pain relief employs different neural mechanisms than placebo and sham mindfulness meditation-induced analgesia. The Journal of Neuroscience, 35(46): 15307–15325.

DOWNLOAD PDF 

Brain mechanisms supporting violated expectations of pain

Zeidan, F., Lobanov, O. V., Kraft, R.A., & Coghill, R.C. (2015). Brain mechanisms supporting violated expectations of pain. Pain, 156(9): 1772–1785. 

DOWNLOAD PDF 

Pain sensitivity is inversely related to regional grey matter density in the brain

Emerson, N.M., Zeidan, F., Lobanov, O.V., Hadsel, M.S., Martucci, K. T., Quevedo, A., Starr, C., et al. (2014). Pain sensitivity is inversely related to regional grey matter density in the brain. Pain, 155(3), 566–573.  

DOWNLOAD PDF 

From cue to meaning: Brain mechanisms supporting the construction of expectations of pain

Lobanov, O.V., Zeidan, F., McHaffie, J.G., Kraft, R.A., & Coghill, R.C. (2013). From cue to meaning: Brain mechanisms supporting the construction of expectations of pain. Pain, 155(1), 129–136. 

DOWNLOAD PDF 

The downward spiral of chronic pain, prescription opioid misuse, and addiction: cognitive, affective, and neuropsychopharmacologic pathways

Garland, E.L., Froeliger, B., Zeidan, F., Partin, K., & Howard, M.O. (2013). The downward spiral of chronic pain, prescription opioid misuse, and addiction: cognitive, affective, and neuropsychopharmacologic pathways. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 37(10,2): 2597-2607. 

DOWNLOAD PDF 

Neural correlates of mindfulness meditation-related anxiety relief

Zeidan, F., Martucci, K.T., Kraft, R.A., McHaffie, J.G., & Coghill, R.C. (2013). Neural correlates of mindfulness meditation-related anxiety relief. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 9(6): 751-759. 

DOWNLOAD PDF 

Functional connections between self-referential thought and chronic pain: a dysfunctional relationship

Zeidan, F. and R. C. Coghill (2013). Functional connections between self-referential thought and chronic pain: a dysfunctional relationship. Pain, 154(1): 3-4. 

DOWNLOAD PDF 

Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: Evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain

Zeidan, F., Grant, J. A., Brown, C. A., McHaffie, J. G., & Coghill, R. C. (2012). Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: Evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain. Neuroscience Letters, 520(2), 165–173.  

DOWNLOAD PDF 

Brain mechanisms supporting the modulation of pain by mindfulness meditation

Zeidan, F., Martucci, K. T., Kraft, R. A., Gordon, N. S., McHaffie, J. G., & Coghill, R. C. (2011). Brain mechanisms supporting the modulation of pain by mindfulness meditation. The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 31(14), 5540-5548. 

DOWNLOAD PDF 

Effects of brief and non mindfulness meditation on mood and cardiovascular variables

Zeidan, F., Johnson, S.K., Gordon, N.S., & Goolkasian, P. (2010a). Effects of brief and non mindfulness meditation on mood and cardiovascular variables. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(8):867-873. 

DOWNLOAD PDF 

Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: evidence of brief mental training

Zeidan, F., Johnson, S.K., Diamond, B.J., David, Z., & Goolkasian, P. (2010c). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and Cognition, 19(2):597-605. 

DOWNLOAD PDF 

The effects of brief mindfulness meditation training on experimentally induced pain

Zeidan, F., Gordon, N.S., Merchant, J., & Goolkasian, P. (2010b). The effects of brief mindfulness meditation training on experimentally induced pain. The Journal of Pain : Official Journal of the American Pain Society, 11(3):199-209. 

DOWNLOAD PDF 

What Is Mindfulness?                              The Effects of Mindfulness

      

Scholarships for Mindfulness Classes

For those who may be facing financial difficulties but are interested in participating in the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses at our center, you are allowed to participate in one of the studies above to receive credits that can go towards completing an MSBR course through the Center for Mindfulness. For more information, on eligible studies, course credits, and participation requirements, please email Admin Coordinator, Will Songer at wsonger@health.ucsd.edu or Project Manager, Dwayne Mosbey at dmosbey@health.ucsd.edu

Join the Lab!

We are currently seeking energetic and qualified postdocs, a research coordinator, and research assistants to join our lab in sunny San Diego! Applicants with a strong interest/background in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), clinical psychology, computer programming, and strong interpersonal skills are encouraged to apply. Please submit a brief cover letter including your research and career goals and a current CV with contact information for three references to fzeidan@ucsd.edu