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ITHS-Funded Study Shows Increased Connectivity in Key Areas of the Brain

ITHS-Funded Study Shows Increased Connectivity in Key Areas of the Brain

A recent study partially funded by ITHS shines new light on the plasticity of the brain and could have implications in various fields of study.

Cynthia Price, PhD, MA, LMT, is a respected Research Professor at the University of Washington School of Nursing, and director of the non-profit Center for Mindful Body Awareness. She has dedicated decades to clinical research, but her recent focus on the neuroscience associated with intervention improvements marks a significant shift in her research. Dr. Price developed the intervention Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy (MABT), and in her work she noticed how teaching individuals to develop interoceptive awareness, involving access and attention to their internal sensations could benefit those struggling with mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. The brain imaging study results revealed plasticity in the brain and increased activation in areas responsible for sensory processing and regulation. This discovery is particularly exciting, as there are limited studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to showcase such changes due to interoceptive awareness training. Says Dr. Price,

The significance of having financial support for interdisciplinary projects cannot be overstated, and enabling researchers with innovative ideas to conduct studies that may not have been possible otherwise.

Collaborating with Dr. Norman Farb at the University of Toronto, Dr. Price’s research was made possible through a grant from the Institute of Translational Health Sciences (ITHS) and the School of Nursing, crucial for covering the high costs associated with fMRI studies. The innovative method they employed, involving awareness meditation to connect internally, demonstrated a tangible impact on participants.

Dr. Cynthia Price

Those who underwent the intervention displayed a sustained ability to focus internally, leading to observable changes in their brain activity—an unprecedented achievement in the field.

Looking ahead, Dr. Price envisions the continuation of this groundbreaking research, emphasizing the importance of interdisciplinary funding to support projects that individuals might not undertake alone. The ITHS grant played a pivotal role in allowing this exploration into the neuroscience of intervention. This work not only confirmed their hypothesis about brain plasticity but also holds enormous implications for future clinical and neuroscience research.

From a results perspective, Dr. Price is thrilled that their hypothesis has seemingly been proven, highlighting the plasticity of the brain and its potential implications for various fields. She is particularly encouraged by the promising results of due to this intervention, as it not only showed increased connectivity in key areas of the brain, but also that these changes were correlated with improvements in self-reported interoceptive awareness, supporting the validity of the Multi-dimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness (MAIA) scale—a tool she helped develop. This scale, measuring changes in a person’s ability to engage in interoceptive awareness skills, holds immense potential for clinical research and neuroscience, providing a reliable means of assessing the impact of interventions on internal perception.

The study’s success underscores the importance of continued research and the potential for a larger study to further validate their findings. Read the study

Read more about ITHS funding opportunities here.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Center For Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number UL1TR002319. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.