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Using mindfulness to reduce schizophrenia vulnerability

We are all confronted with an overwhelming array of sensory stimuli and are required to filter out what is most useful and salient, and discard unwanted information. Leading theorists have argued that schizophrenia may result in part from an inability to filter information. Yet, having a more open information processing style (i.e. less filtering) has also been linked to creativity and originality of thought, which is both an aesthetic and pragmatic blessing for an individual and society. Indeed, schizophrenia and creativity have been linked by previous research. Antipsychotic medication, the first line of treatment for psychosis and schizophrenia, is known to dampen down more open processing, potentially reducing conditions promoting creativity. Our research on expert meditators showed that mindfulness practice is associated with lower suspiciousness and paranoia (the strongest risk factor in psychosis-prone individuals for converting to psychosis) in the presence of decreased filtering. In this project, we examine if mindfulness training in psychosis-prone individuals reduces schizophrenia vulnerability (suspiciousness/paranoia), whilst preserving decreased filtering thought to underlie heightened creativity.

The project seeks, for the first time, to i) ascertain whether there is a link between high positive schizotypy (linked to psychosis-proneness), creativity, and reduced information filtering (as measured by the startle habituation paradigm); and ii) pilot a mindfulness-based intervention for reducing suspiciousness/paranoia with individuals with high positive schizotypy.  


Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Elena Antonova - I obtained the BSc in Psychology from the University College London, UK, in 2000 and the PhD in Cognitive Psychology from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), King's Collge London, UK, in 2004. I then held a number of post-doctorate research positions at the IoPPN between 2004 and 2011, including developing virtual reality fMRI-compatible analogues of well-established animal spatial memory paradigms (Morris Water Maze and Olton Octagonal Maze) as a biomarker of hippocampal function for drug development in Alzheimer's Disease, as well as investigating the neural predictors of responsiveness to CBT for psychosis, amongst others. Following a Templeton Positive Neuroscience Award as a personal fellowship for the project investigating the effect of mindfulness on sensory information gating in expert mindfulness practitioners held between 2011-2013, I transitioned to a lecturership post at the Department of Psychology, IoPPN.   In mid-June 2019, I moved to Brunel University London to take on the position of Senior Lecturer at the Division of Psychology, Department of Life Scienes, College of Health and Life Sciences, where I aim to consolidate my existing research and education expertise, as well as develop new inter-disciplinary research directions and collaborations. I will also continue my research collaborations at the IoPPN as a Visiting Researcher. My main area of research interest and expertise is the neuroscience of mindfulness with the focus on investigating the effects of long-term mindfulness meditation practice using psychophysiology and neuroimaging methods with the application to the prevention and management of mental illness as well as promotion of mental health and wellbeing. I have been actively involved with the Mind and Life Institute since 2011 and Mind and Life Europe since 2013, organisations catalyzing inter-disciplinary scientific research into the effects of contemplative practices. In 2017 I was elected a Mind & Life Research Fellow for my contribution to contemplative science - the highest honorific recognition in my research field. The most recent research direction is a circulation between contemplative neuroscience and AI humanoid robotics towards mitigating AI risks in collaboration with Prof. Chrystopher Nehaniv and Adaptive Systems Research Group and Royal Society Wolfson Biocomputation Research Laboratory, Centre for Computer Science and Information Research, University of Hertfordshire, where I am a Visiting Senior Research Fellow.

Related Research Group(s)

Embodiment in Academic and Professional Practice

Embodiment in Academic and Professional Practice - Development of an enhanced awareness of bodies as sensors of crucial information about ourselves and our reality; Enhancing our performance as human beings, practitioners, researchers and educators.

Cognitive Neuroscience

Cognitive Neuroscience - Fundamental and applied research into brain function using techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), electromyography (EMG), eye-tracking, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS), infrared thermography together with psychophysics and cognitive behavioural paradigms in health and disease.


Partnering with confidence

Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.


Project last modified 17/11/2021