Mechanisms and Predictors of Change in App-Based Mindfulness Training for Adolescents

  • STATUS
    Recruiting
  • End date
    May 24, 2026
  • participants needed
    158
  • sponsor
    Mclean Hospital
Updated on 24 May 2022
Accepts healthy volunteers

Summary

A growing body of research implicates rumination as being a transdiagnostic risk factor involved in the development of depression and anxiety in youth. Critically, mindfulness meditation has shown significant promise in targeting rumination, and ultimately improving depressive and anxiety symptoms. Mindfulness apps offer a convenient and cost-effective means for accessing mindfulness training, while being interactive and engaging for youth. Despite their growing popularity among teens, strikingly little research has been conducted on these apps. Two critical questions have yet to be addressed: (1) what are the underlying neural and cognitive mechanisms that account for the beneficial effects of these apps and (2) for whom is app-based mindfulness well-suited. To address these gaps, adolescents (ages 13-18) will be randomly assigned to an app-delivered mindfulness course vs. a control condition and will complete pre- and post-intervention resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans to probe static and dynamic functional connectivity within - and between - brain networks strongly implicated in mindfulness training and rumination. In addition, cognitive tasks will be administered at pre- and post-intervention to assess attentional control abilities putatively enhanced by mindfulness training. Finally, mindfulness skills and changes in rumination will be assessed via smartphone-based ecological momentary assessment (EMA). First, the investigators will test whether changes in (1) brain functional connectivity, (2) attentional control and (3) acquisition and use of mindfulness skills mediate between-group (i.e., app vs. control) differences in the reduction of rumination. Second, the investigators will test whether a machine learning model incorporating baseline clinical, demographic, and psychosocial characteristics can be used to identify which adolescents are predicted to benefit from app-based mindfulness training.

Description

Mindfulness-based smartphone apps have surged in popularity in recent years. Headspace - among the most popular of these platforms - has over 42 million users. Recent surveys indicate that 11% of U.S. adolescents have used mindfulness apps as a means of coping with anxiety or depressive symptoms, which increase substantially during the adolescent years. A growing body of research implicates rumination as being a transdiagnostic risk factor involved in the development of depression and anxiety in youth. Critically, mindfulness meditation has shown significant promise in targeting rumination, and ultimately improving depressive and anxiety symptoms. Mindfulness apps offer a convenient and cost-effective means for accessing mindfulness training, while being interactive and engaging for youth. Despite their growing popularity among teens, strikingly little research has been conducted on these apps. Two critical questions have yet to be addressed, which are strongly aligned with the NCCIH Strategic Plan: (1) what are the underlying neural and cognitive mechanisms that account for the beneficial effects of these apps and (2) for whom is app-based mindfulness well-suited. To address these gaps, adolescents (ages 13-18) will be randomly assigned to an app-delivered mindfulness course vs. an active control condition and will complete pre- and post-intervention resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans to probe static and dynamic functional connectivity within - and between - brain networks implicated in mindfulness training and rumination. In addition, cognitive tasks will be administered at pre- and post-intervention to assess attentional control abilities putatively enhanced by mindfulness training. Finally, mindfulness skills and changes in rumination will be assessed via smartphone-based ecological momentary assessment (EMA). First, the investigators will test whether changes in (1) brain functional connectivity (dynamic resting state functional connectivity via coactivation pattern analysis), (2) attentional control (Correct NoGo % on the SART task) and (3) acquisition and use of mindfulness skills (assessed via EMA) mediate between-group (i.e., app vs. control) differences in the reduction of rumination. Second, the investigators will test whether a machine learning model incorporating baseline clinical, demographic, and psychosocial characteristics can be used to identify which adolescents are predicted to benefit from app-based mindfulness training. Ultimately, such an algorithm may inform individual risk-benefit assessments that could be used to objectively communicate the probability of experiencing positive vs. adverse outcomes to users prior to engaging with a mindfulness app. Collectively, results are expected to advance (1) our understanding of the underlying mechanisms that account for the beneficial effects of app-based mindfulness training and (2) our ability to predict which adolescents are well-suited to these increasingly popular apps.

Details
Condition Rumination
Treatment Mindfulness (Headspace) App, Active Control Condition ("Recharge" condition delivered in Headspace app)
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04697966
SponsorMclean Hospital
Last Modified on24 May 2022

Eligibility

Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Both genders, all ethnicities (see Section: Inclusion of Women and Minorities)
Ages 13-18 years
Written informed assent/consent from adolescent and parent/guardian
English as a first language or English fluency
Right-handed
Personal iPhone or Android smartphone
CRSQ rumination subscale score
If on psychotropic medication, must be on stable dose for at least 2 months

Exclusion Criteria

History or current diagnosis of any of the following DSM-5 disorders: schizophrenia spectrum or other psychotic disorder, bipolar disorder, substance/alcohol use disorder within the past 12 months or lifetime severe substance/alcohol use disorder
Systemic medical or neurological illness that could impact fMRI measures of cerebral blood flow
Failure to meet standard exclusion criteria for fMRI scanning (e.g. pregnancy, claustrophobia, cardiac or neural pacemakers, surgically implanted metal devices, cochlear implants, metal objects in the body)
History of seizure disorder, or head trauma with loss of consciousness > 2 mins
Serious or unstable medical illness (e.g., cardiovascular, hepatic, renal, respiratory, endocrine, neurologic or hematologic disease)
Participants with active suicidal ideation will be immediately referred to appropriate clinical treatment
Current or past treatment with mindfulness-based psychotherapy (e.g., MBCT, DBT or ACT)
Exposure to in-person or app-based mindfulness/meditation course (at least 300 mins of past practice)
Clear my responses

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