Research in mindfulness has identified a wide range of benefits in different areas of psychological health, such as helping to decrease anxiety, depression, rumination, and emotional reactivity. Research has also shown mindfulness helps to increase well-being, positive affect, and concentration.

Practicing mindfulness can also be helpful to foster physical health by improving immune system function, quality of sleep, as well as decreasing blood pressure. Structural and functional brain changes have also been documented in areas associated with attention, emotional regulation, empathy, and bodily awareness.

In addition to health, research has been made on the benefits of mindfulness in business and educational settings. In companies, results showed improved communication and work performance. In educational settings, mindfulness practices improved social-emotional skills, executive functions, and decreased test stress in students, as well as reduced stress and burnout in teachers.

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Mindfulness Research at The Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology 

UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) is housed under The Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology.The Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology. The Cousins Center serves as a major campus facilitator for bridging training in the fields of behavioral science, neuroscience, and immunology.
The Cousins Center brings together diverse group of scientists with the goal of understanding the role of immunological mechanisms that underlie behavioral disturbances with impacts on mental health.

The Cousins Center consists of core faculty conducting PNI-based research studies on aging, alcohol and substance abuse, cancer, infectious diseases, inflammatory diseases and mind-body interactions. In addition, the center has its own on-site Inflammatory Biology Core Laboratory and Psychophysiology Laboratory.
For more information on being a study participant at the Cousins Center, please contact: 310.267.4389.


At MARC, we have conducted research on both mindfulness, generally, and the effects of our signature Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) program in a variety of settings, both in adults and children. Below is a list of our past and current research projects:


Mindfulness Meditation Activates Altruism
See full article here

Clinical evidence suggests that mindfulness meditation reduces anxiety, depression, and stress, and improves emotion regulation due to modulation of activity in neural substrates linked to the regulation of emotions and social preferences. However, less was known about whether mindfulness meditation might alter pro-social behavior. Here we examined whether mindfulness meditation activates human altruism, a component of social cooperation. Using a simple donation game, which is a real-world version of the Dictator’s Game, we randomly assigned 326 subjects to a mindfulness meditation online session or control and measured their willingness to donate a portion of their payment for participation as a charitable donation. Subjects who underwent the meditation treatment donated at a 2.61 times higher rate than the control. We also found a larger treatment effect of meditation among those who did not go to college and those who were under 25 years of age, with both subject groups contributing virtually nothing in the control condition. The results imply high context modularity of human altruism and the development of intervention approaches including mindfulness meditation to increase social cooperation, especially among subjects with low baseline willingness to contribute.



Efficacy of a Brief Mindfulness Intervention Upon Anxiety in Early Psychosis Patients

Researchers at Michigan State University tested to see if mindfulness could reduce anxiety in psychosis patients who had experienced one episode and had less than 30 months of antipsychotic exposure. In a psychiatrist office, twenty subjects completed a POMS questionnaire (measuring anxiety), then participated in a three-minute mindfulness exercise, followed by a second POMS questionnaire. The exercise was the recording “Body and Sound” by Diana Winston, director of mindfulness education at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. The results showed the participants scores decreased from 4.6 to 1.7. The change was statistically significant regardless of the severity of their symptoms.  


A Feasibility Study on Mindfulness Meditation Training in Adults and Adolescents With ADHD

This study by Zylowska et al. (2007) tested the feasibility of an 8-week mindfulness training program for adults and adolescents with ADHD. Twenty-four adults and eight adolescents with ADHD enrolled in the study. The majority of participants reported high satisfaction with the training, improvements in ADHD symptoms and in test performance on tasks measuring attention and cognitive inhibition. Participants also reported improvements in anxiety and depressive symptoms.

Mindfulness Meditation Training Effects on CD4+ T Lymphocytes in HIV-1 Infected Adults

This randomized controlled study by Creswell et al. (2009) tested the efficacy of an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) meditation program compared to a one-day stress-reduction education seminar on 48 HIV-1 infected adults. Efficacy of the programs was determined by testing CD4+ T lymphocyte counts in the participants. Participants in the one-day seminar showed declines in CD4+ T lymphocyte counts, whereas counts among participants in the 8-week MBSR program were unchanged. These findings provide an indication that mindfulness meditation training can buffer CD4+ T lymphocyte declines in HIV-1 infected adults.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Training Reduces Loneliness and Pro-inflammatory Gene Expression in Older Adults

This randomized controlled study by Creswell et al. (2009) tested the efficacy of an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program on the reduction of loneliness and the loneliness-related pro-inflammatory gene expression among 40 older adults. Results showed the MBSR program reduced self-reported loneliness, compared to small increases in loneliness in the control group, as well as a decreased the expression of NF-κB-associated gene and C Reactive Protein, both of which are associated with loneliness. This work provides an initial indication that MBSR may be a treatment approach for reducing loneliness and related pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults.

Effects of Mindful Awareness Practices on Executive Functions in Elementary School Children 

This randomized controlled study by Flook et al. (2010) applied a school-based program of mindful-awareness practices. The program was delivered for 30 minutes, twice per week, for eight weeks to 64 second- and third-grade children, ages 7 to 9 years. Teachers and parents completed questionnaires assessing children’s executive function immediately before and after the 8-week period. Results indicated that children showed improvement in executive function, both at school and at home, with a greater improvement among children with executive function difficulties previous to the course.

Community-Based Mindfulness Program for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: Targeting Stress Reduction

This study by Galla et al. (2014) examined the impact of a community-based mindfulness training program on stress reduction among 127 adults in urban Los Angeles. Participants received Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) intervention. Results showed significant improvements in self-reported mindfulness, self-compassion, and perceived stress after the course. These results indicate that a community-based mindfulness training program can lead to reduced levels of psychological stress.

Mindfulness Training for Stress Reduction During Pregnancy

This randomised controlled pilot trial by Guardino et al. (2014) tested 47 pregnant women, between 10 and 25 weeks gestation, experiencing high levels of perceived stress and pregnancy anxiety, on the efficacy of a six-week Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) intervention compared to educational reading. Results showed participants in the mindfulness intervention experienced larger decreases in pregnancy-related anxiety than participants in the reading control condition. This study is one of the first randomised controlled pilot trials of a mindfulness meditation intervention during pregnancy and provides some evidence that mindfulness training during pregnancy may effectively reduce pregnancy-related anxiety.

Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults with Sleep Disturbances

This randomized trial by Black et al. (2015) tested the efficacy of a six-week Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) intervention compared to sleep-hygiene education, to promote sleep quality in older adults with moderate sleep disturbances. Participants in the MAPs group showed significant improvement relative to those in the sleep-hygiene education on sleep quality, insomnia symptoms, depression symptoms, fatigue interference, and fatigue severity. Regarding inflammatory signaling, NF-κB concentrations significantly declined over time in both groups.

Mindfulness Meditation for Younger Breast Cancer Survivors

This randomized controlled trial by Bower et al. (2015) provided the first evaluation of a Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) intervention for younger breast cancer survivors (at or before the age of 50) designed to reduce stress, depression, and inflammatory activity. Seventy-one women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer who had completed cancer treatment were randomly assigned to a MAPs class or to a wait-list control group. The MAPs intervention led to significant reductions in perceived stress and marginal reductions in depressive symptoms, as well as significant reductions in pro-inflammatory gene expression and inflammatory signaling. Improvements in secondary outcomes included reduced fatigue, sleep disturbance, and vasomotor symptoms, as well as increased positive affect and experiences of peace and meaning. Although reductions in cancer-related distress were observed, intervention effects on psychological and behavioral measures were not maintained at the three-month follow-up assessment.



Mindfulness meditation and improvement in depressive symptoms among Spanish- and English speaking adults: A randomized, controlled, comparative efficacy trial 

Latino immigrants experience acculturative stress and increased depression risk. Mindfulness meditation improves depressive symptoms, yet the vast majority of research has focused on English speaking populations. The comparable efficacy of Spanish and English formats of mindfulness meditation (MAPs) in improving depressive symptoms suggests that this community based intervention may mitigate depression risk in Latino adults who are experiencing social adversity.


Mindfulness Meditation and Perceived Stress in Pediatric Resident Trainees

This randomized controlled trial by Purdie et al. examined the efficacy of a MAPs mindfulness meditation intervention on the reduction of perceived stress in pediatric resident trainees. Results will be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Pediatrics.

Randomized Trial of a Mindfulness-Based Intervention and Tai Chi Intervention on Psychological Stress among Home Care Aides.

This study by Ghosh et al. examined the effect of Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) intervention on psychological stress for home care aides. Home care aides, who had expressed an interest in stress reduction activities, were randomized into either a MAPs or Tai Chi intervention. Both conditions were six-week interventions administered in Seattle, Washington. The 270 home care aides in the study were served by the SEIU 775 Benefits Group. Participants responded to self-report questionnaires to assess psychological symptoms before and after the interventions. The results of this study have yet to be published.

A Phase III Randomized Trial Targeting Behavioral Symptoms in Younger Breast Cancer Survivors
R01 CA200977     Ganz (PI)                 7/1/16 – 6/30/21
NIH-NCI        Irwin (Co-Investigator)         

This phase III, three-group, randomized clinical trial will evaluate the survivor education vs. mindfulness intervention programs as compared to usual care in reducing behavioral symptoms (depression - primary outcome; fatigue, sleep disturbance, vasomotor symptoms-secondary outcomes) in breast cancer survivors.

Mindfulness Meditation and Insomnia in Alzheimer Disease Caregivers: Inflammatory and Biological Aging Mechanisms

R01 AG056424-01        Irwin (PI)         9/1/17-8/30/22

This current randomized controlled trial by Irwin et al. will evaluate the ability of Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) intervention, compared with a sleep educational seminar, to reduce insomnia, reduce cellular and genomic markers of inflammation, and attenuate cellular aging in older adult Alzheimer Disease spousal caregivers with insomnia.

Promoting Adherence to Anti-Hypertensive Medications and Lifestyle Guidelines through Mindfulness Practice
R017350-02             An (PI)    12/1/16-11/30/21
NIH-NINR             Irwin (Co-Mentor)    `            

This current study by An et al. will examine the efficacy of mindfulness meditation intervention on adherence to anti-hypertensive medication and lifestyle guidelines.