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Inhalation of 7.5% carbon dioxide increases anxiety and autonomic arousal and provides a novel experimental model of anxiety with which to evaluate pharmacological and psychological treatments for anxiety. To date several psychotropic drugs including benzodiazepines, SSRIs and SNRIs have been evaluated using the 7.5% CO2 model; however, it has yet to be used to evaluate psychological interventions. We compared the effects of two core psychological components of mindfulness-meditation (open monitoring and focused attention) against general relaxation, on subjective, autonomic and neuropsychological outcomes in the 7.5% CO2 experimental model. 32 healthy screened adults were randomized to complete 10 min of guided open monitoring, focused attention or relaxation, immediately before inhaling 7.5% CO2 for 20 min. During CO2-challenge participants completed an eye-tracking measure of attention control and selective attention. Measures of subjective anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate were taken at baseline and immediately following intervention and CO2-challenge. OM and FA practice reduced subjective feelings of anxiety during 20-min inhalation of 7.5% CO2 compared to relaxation control. OM practice produced a strong anxiolytic effect, whereas the effect of FA was more modest. Anxiolytic OM and FA effects occurred in the absence of group differences in autonomic arousal and eye-movement measures of attention. Our findings are consistent with neuropsychological models of mindfulness-meditation that propose OM and FA activate prefrontal mechanisms that support emotion regulation during periods of anxiety and physiological hyper-arousal. Our findings complement those from pharmacological treatment studies, further supporting the use of CO2 challenge to evaluate future therapeutic interventions for anxiety.
Bibliographical noteCrown Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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