Differential Effects of State and Trait Mindfulness on the Late Positive Potential

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Abstract

Mindfulness is an effective emotion regulation strategy, and its principles have formed the basis for several psychotherapies. Of interest is how a mindful perspective changes not only the subjective experience of emotion, but also neural activity involved in emotional processing. In a previous event-related potential (ERP) study, trait mindfulness was linked with reduced neural activity in response to affective stimuli, as measured by the late positive potential (LPP). Building on this result, we investigated how both state (i.e., task-induced) and trait mindfulness would jointly affect the LPP in a large adult sample (N = 118). First, participants passively viewed affective images while ERP data were recorded. Participants were then instructed to adopt a mindful perspective and viewed a second, equivalent set of images. We hypothesized that the LPP would be reduced from the passive viewing to the mindful viewing condition. Contrary to our hypothesis, task-induced mindfulness increased LPP amplitude relative to passive viewing across all image types, suggesting that state mindfulness increases motivated attention to stimuli, regardless of affective valence and arousal. Trait mindfulness did not correlate with LPP amplitude in either the passive or mindful viewing conditions. As an unexpected finding, gender moderated the association between trait mindfulness and LPP amplitude to emotional images during mindful viewing. We propose that state and trait mindfulness impact emotional processing through different neural mechanisms and discuss implications for mindfulness as an emotion regulation strategy.

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