Functional Neuroimaging – Mapping Psychiatric Illness

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 4, 2015

The brightly colored areas represent brain activity in patients experiencing schizophrenic hallucinations.

Imagine being able to watch the brain in action – watching changes in brain activity when someone is thinking, feeling emotions, or performing certain tasks. Functional brain imaging (functional neuroimaging) does just that, allowing researchers to observe changes in the circuitry of a brain, non-invasively, under different conditions.

Functional brain imaging also is being used to understand which areas of brain circuitry are affected by psychiatric illnesses such as depression, anxiety, or psychosis. Researchers hope to eventually use this information to improve diagnosis and tailor treatment for patients with psychiatric illnesses. Ultimately, the aim is to personalize treatment by looking at profiles or tests in individual patients and predict how someone will respond to a particular treatment or combination of treatments. This approach could even identify new treatment targets.

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Mindfulness Meditation Helps Fibromyalgia Patients

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 20, 2013


Research indicates that meditation may be helpful for people suffering from fibromyalgia (chronic pain syndrome).

Mindfulness meditation is a state of awareness in which one remains non-judgmental and non-reactive towards one’s own thoughts and emotions from moment to moment. Research indicates it may lead to changes in the brain that provide health benefits, particularly for people suffering from fibromyalgia (chronic pain syndrome).  These patients live with musculoskeletal pain and fatigue on a daily basis.  As a result, they often avoid pain-related threats and dwell on thoughts of pain, making it harder to cope with their illness.

In a study of female fibromyalgia patients who practiced mindfulness meditation, Dr. David Vago, a cognitive neuroscientist in the Department of Psychiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), found that after eight weeks of mindfulness meditation training, patients were less likely to avoid pain-related words and were less distracted by such words when performing attention-demanding tasks.  In other words, they were more likely to engage with their pain and had fewer tendencies to dwell on such thoughts after completion of the study.  While fibromyalgia patients who meditated still sensed their pain, they were able to manage their emotional responses more effectively.

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