The Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on the Association Between Autonomic Interoceptive Signals and Emotion Regulation Selection

Ziv Ardi, Yulia Golland, Roni Shafir, Gal Sheppes, Nava Levit-Binnun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: The ability to select the most adaptive regulatory strategy as a function of the emotional context plays a pivotal role in psychological health. Recently, we showed that mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) can improve the sensitivity of regulatory strategy selection to emotional intensity. However, the mechanisms underlying this improvement are unclear. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that MBIs support adaptive regulatory selection by increasing sensitivity to interoceptive signals associated with the emotional stimuli. METHODS: Participants (n = 84, mean [standard deviation {SD}] age = 30.9 [8.3] years; 54% women) were randomized to either a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program or a wait-list control condition. Before and after the MBSR program, physiological measures for autonomic nervous system activity were obtained, and participants performed a task examining emotion regulation selections (reappraisal versus distraction) when confronted with low or high negative intensity images. They also completed a battery of mindfulness, interoception, and well-being self-report measures. A cross-classified model was used for the main analyses. RESULTS: The participants assigned to the MBSR were overall more likely to choose reappraisal than distraction (b = 0.26, posterior SD = 0.13, 95confidence interval = 0.02-0.52) after the program. Interoceptive signals in response to negative images were associated with subsequent regulatory selections (b = 0.02, posterior SD = 0.01, 95% confidence interval = 0.01-0.03) in the MBSR group. Specifically, lower cardiac reactivity was associated with the choice to reappraise, whereas higher cardiac reactivity was related to the choice to distract. Greater differences in cardiac reactivity between states that prompt reappraisal and states that prompt distraction were associated with higher well-being (Satisfaction With Life Scale, Pearson r (29) = 0.527, p = .003). CONCLUSIONS: Mindfulness seems to increase the sensitivity of regulatory selections to interoceptive signals, and this is associated with subjective well-being. This may be a central pathway through which MBIs exert their positive effects on mental health and resilience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)852-862
Number of pages11
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2021


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