July Neuroscience Round-Up for Mindful Leaders

BL00 -  Workplace Neuroscience Roundup-Max-Quality

by the Mindful Leader Team

For this month’s Round-Up, we explore the link between executive function and grit, how meditation can reduce guilt and diminish prosocial reparation behavior, the benefits of travel for dementia and other mental health conditions, the relationship among MBIs, depression, and cancer survival, and the impact of hindrance stressors on emotional exhaustion in healthcare workers. We have summarized the main ideas and key takeaways below with links to the full articles.

The Relative Role of Executive Control and Personality Traits in Grit    

Grit (tenaciously pursuing a goal despite setbacks and challenges) is a personality trait associated with improved wellbeing, reduced depression/suicidal tendencies, and greater success in work and personal life, but it is largely conceptualized as something separate from cognitive ability. This study sought to explore the relationship between grit and executive functioning – is the development and expression of grit driven by the control mechanisms that guide behavior in a goal-driven manner, i.e. our executive functions? Similarly, the grit-related personality traits of self-regulation, impulsiveness, and mindfulness have also been shown to be associated with executive functioning. To explore these questions, grit, mindfulness, and impulsivity traits were assessed in 134 participants and then statistically evaluated against their performance in four executive functioning tasks.

Key Points:

  • While both trait and executive functioning measures reliably predicted grit, variance of grit was much more strongly explained by the traits of low impulsivity and high mindfulness, rather than executive functioning.
  • High grit scoring participants did not perform better on executive functioning tasks compared to lower-scoring participants. They did, however, display a different pattern of performance that was characterized by keeping attentive to all available information and responding to contextual clues in the current context as opposed to previous contexts.
  • Gritty people don’t necessarily have a higher cognitive capacity, but these findings suggest they may use their cognitive abilities in different ways.

Read the full article here.

Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Guilt and Prosocial Reparation     

While there are many benefits to focused breathing mindfulness meditation, this study presents a possible shortcoming of the practice: diminished feelings of guilt and decreased prosocial reparative behavior. Meditation reduces negative feelings, guilt included, which is beneficial in making an individual feel better, but can also shift attention away from others and towards the self. In this study, researchers performed a series of eight separate experiments to examine how different meditation practices (focused breathing mindfulness meditation vs. loving-kindness meditation) impact the guilt-driven tendency to repair harm caused to others.

Key Points:

  • Focused breathing mindfulness meditation can reduce feelings of guilt, which in turn, makes one less likely to engage in prosocial reparative behaviors. 
  • One possible solution to mitigate this negative outcome of focused breathing mindfulness meditation is to engage in loving-kindness meditation (LKM) instead. This style of meditation focuses less on the self and more on other people, thereby increasing positive feelings like love. Compared to focused breathing meditation, LKM led to higher levels of prosocial reparative behavior.
  • Although this study presents a rare negative consequence that can arise from meditation, the authors note that on the whole, mindfulness is a positive thing that usually leads to more helping behavior in most circumstances.

Read the full article here

Travel Therapy: Could Holidays Help Mental Health and Wellbeing?    

An interdisciplinary team of researchers at Edith Cowan University has started to explore the health benefits of tourism (i.e. the act of going on holiday), particularly how travel experiences could serve as a possible medical intervention for treating dementia and other mental health conditions. Many of the current dementia treatments, like exercise, cognitive stimulation, sensory stimulation, and adaptation to mealtimes and environment, are often naturally experienced while on vacation. As such, tourism offers a unique opportunity for holistically treating conditions like dementia.

Key Points:

  • Tourism boosts physical and psychological wellbeing, especially as going on holiday tends to naturally involve many experiences known to benefit mental and physical health, including increased cognitive stimulation, more exercise, and greater time spent outdoors. Thus, we need to start considering the role tourism can and should play in public health.
  • The researchers hope to spark a new line of collaborative research that will empirically explore the relationship between tourism and public health. Ultimately, they hope such findings will identify how tourism might benefit particularly vulnerable groups, including those diagnosed with dementia or depression.

Read the full article here.

Examining the Interrelationships Between Mindfulness-Based Interventions, Depression, Inflammation, and Cancer Survival 

This literature review explores the findings of previous scientific studies to assess if, and through which mechanisms, mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) might improve survival in cancer patients. Clinical depression is not only highly prevalent among cancer patients, but it can also increase cancer mortality by up to 39%. While many studies have found mindfulness interventions to effectively decrease depressive symptoms and improve quality of life among this population, no studies have specifically examined whether such practices can improve survival. Mindfulness and meditation may also help patients treat and manage chronic pain and feelings of social isolation, both of which are linked to increased inflammation and depression, and by extension, worse prognosis.

Key Points:

  • Depression in cancer patients arises as a combination of both psychological and physical factors. On a biological level, depression involves cortisol dysregulation and cytokine activation, depleting serotonin, but these same mechanisms promote tumor growth, progression, and metastasis. 
  • After thoroughly reviewing the current body of scientific research and literature in this domain, the authors conclude that MBIs may target the inflammatory pathways that correlate with both depressive symptoms and a worse cancer prognosis.
  • Currently, no long-term studies have been conducted regarding MBIs and depression (or cancer survival), so it remains unclear if ongoing mindfulness practice is needed for any positive effects to persist. Future research efforts should focus on exploring how depression, pain, inflammation, and social functioning may help mediate the relationship between mindfulness and prolonged survival in cancer patients.

Read the full article here

The Effect of Hindrance Stressors on the Emotional Exhaustion Among Front-line Healthcare Workers in the Recuperation Period During the COVID-19 Epidemic in China    

This cross-sectional study sampled 418 Chinese front-line healthcare workers to examine how hindrance stressors (work-related demands that negatively interfere with work performance and trigger negative emotions) contribute to emotional exhaustion. Specifically, the researchers looked at how affective rumination – recurrent and intrusive negative thoughts associated with work — might be the mechanism linking the two. The study then evaluated how both family support and servant leadership served to moderate (strengthen or weaken) the impact of hindrance stressors on emotional exhaustion.

Key Points:

  • Among healthcare workers recuperating from COVID-19, hindrance stressors positively predicted emotional exhaustion, and this relationship was mediated by affective rumination. In other words, increased hindrance stressors lead to greater emotional exhaustion through the process of affective rumination (constantly experiencing intrusive negative thoughts about work-related issues).
  • Servant leadership – a leadership style in which the main goal of a leader is to serve, rather than promote the company/organization – helped lessen the effect of hindrance stressors on emotional exhaustion, suggesting this may be a useful way for management to support healthcare workers.
  • Most interestingly, the researchers found that family support can serve to aggravate emotional exhaustion. Venting about adverse effects with loved ones further immerses the individual in the negative events, thereby amplifying these feelings and causing an even greater consumption of emotional resources. 

Read the full article here

Which of these articles did you find the most interesting? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Enjoying our monthly Neuroscience Round-ups? If you're curious about last month's Round-up, click here.


There are no comments yet. Be the first one to leave a comment!

Leave a comment