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The Science of Mindfulness

We carry out research on the psychological and biological processes underlying vulnerability to depression and the effectiveness and mechanisms of action of mindfulness-based approaches in preventing it.

Mindfulness meditation has been practised for thousands of years, but it is only in the last 30 or so years that the beneficial effects of using mindfulness techniques in relieving physical pain and mental distress have been subjected to modern scientific scrutiny.

Our research focuses on Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), developed by OMC Director Mark Williams with colleagues John Teasdale (Cambridge) and Zindel Segal (Toronto) from the work by Jon Kabat-Zinn on Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction.

MBCT prevents depression in the most vulnerable patients:

  • In patients with three or more previous episodes of depression, MBCT reduces the recurrence rate over 12 months by 40-50% compared with usual care.
  • MBCT is as effective as reducing recurrence as antidepressants.
  • In the UK, the Government’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended MBCT for those with three or more episodes of depression in their Guidelines for Management of Depression (2004, 2009).

Research at the Oxford Mindulness Centre includes a major Wellcome Foundation funded programme on the effects of mindfulness in people suffering from suicidal ideas when depressed.

See our research papers…