Improve Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Symptoms in Youth with Mind-Body Practices

Improve Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Symptoms in Youth with Mind-Body Practices

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

mindfulness practice can help us pay attention better, resist distractions, be less impulsive, remember what we are doing in the moment, and regulate our own emotions, it is helpful whether we have ADHD or not. But it holds special interest for those with ADHD.” – Casey Dixon

 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is most commonly found in children, but for about half it persists into adulthood. It’s estimated that about 5% of the adult population has ADHD. Hence, this is a very large problem that can produce inattention, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and emotional issues, and reduce quality of life. The most common treatment is drugs, like methylphenidate, Ritalin, which helps reducing symptoms in about 30% of the people with ADHD. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of the drugs appears to be markedly reduced after the first year. In addition, the drugs often have troublesome side effects, can be addictive, and can readily be abused. So, drugs, at present, do not appear to be a good solution, only affecting some, only for a short time, and with unwanted side effects.

 

There are indications that mind-body practices training may be an effective treatment for ADHD. It makes sense that it should be, as the skills and abilities strengthened by mind-body practices training are identical to those that are defective in ADHD,  attentionimpulse controlexecutive functionemotion control, and mood improvement. In addition, unlike drugs, they are relatively safe interventions that have minimal troublesome side effects. Since mind-body practices is so promising as treatments, it is important to step back and summarize what has been learned in the scientific research of the effectiveness of mindfulness training for ADHD.

 

In today’s Research News article “Interventions Based on Mind-Body Therapies for the Improvement of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms in Youth: A Systematic Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6680862/), Barranco-Ruiz and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies of the effectiveness pf mind-body practices in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They found 12 published randomized trials employing the mind-body practices of school based 8-week mindfulness trainings and yoga practices that were applied to children and adolescents of 5 to 18 years of age.

 

They found that 11 of the 12 reviewed studies reported significant improvements in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) following mind-body treatment in the youths. There were significant improvements in the symptoms of ADHD including significant increases in attention and planning, and significant decreases in inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, anxiety, shyness, social problems, perfectionism, inhibition, self-reported emotion dysregulation, and depressive symptoms.

 

These are impressive results. It has been previously shown with disparate healthy and ill populations that mindfulness training produces increases in attention and significant decreases in inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, anxiety, social problems, perfectionism, inhibition, emotion dysregulation, and depression. The present review extends these findings to children and adolescents. This is important as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is highest among children and adolescents. These results suggest that mindfulness training and yoga practices are safe and effective in improving ADHD and its symptoms. Mind-body practices may be an excellent alternative to standard drug treatment.

 

So, improve Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms in youth with mind-body practices.

 

Yoga has been shown to help improve ADHD symptoms. . . . Like mindfulness meditation, it ups dopamine levels and strengthens the prefrontal cortex. One study found that kids who practiced yoga moves for 20 minutes twice a week for 8 weeks improved on tests that measure attention and focus.” – WebMD

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Barranco-Ruiz, Y., Etxabe, B. E., Ramírez-Vélez, R., & Villa-González, E. (2019). Interventions Based on Mind-Body Therapies for the Improvement of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms in Youth: A Systematic Review. Medicina (Kaunas, Lithuania), 55(7), 325. doi:10.3390/medicina55070325

 

Abstract

Background and objectives: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents. Mind–body therapies (MBTs) seem to be effective for improving health in different populations; however, whether a positive effect occurs in children and adolescents with ADHD is still controversial. The main aim of this systematic review was to analyse the interventions based on MBT aimed to improve the main ADHD symptoms in children and adolescents. Materials and Methods: A systematic review was conducted following the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines to identify MBT studies on children and adolescents (4–18 years) with a clinical diagnosis of ADHD. Study quality was evaluated by the NIH quality tool (U.S. National Institute of Health). Results: There were positive results in eleven out of twelve included studies regarding the effect of the MBT interventions on ADHD symptoms. With respect to ADHD symptoms, we observed differences across studies. In relation to the studies’ quality, eleven studies were rated “poor” and one was rated as “fair”. Conclusions: MBTs, such as yoga or mindfulness, could be positive strategies to mitigate ADHD symptoms in children and adolescents. However, further research with high-quality designs, with randomization, greater sample sizes, and more intensive supervised practice programs are needed.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6680862/

 

Improve Knee and Hip Osteoarthritis with Exercise and Mind-Body Practices

Improve Knee and Hip Osteoarthritis with Exercise and Mind-Body Practices

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

studies suggest that specific mind-body therapies may help reduce pain and improve physical function in persons with osteoarthritis of the knee.” – Terry Selfe

 

Osteoarthritis is a chronic degenerative joint disease that is the most common form of arthritis. It produces pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints. It is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., with about 43% of arthritis sufferers limited in mobility and about a third having limitations that affect their ability to perform their work. Knee osteoarthritis effects 5% of adults over 25 years of age and 12% of those over 65. Hip osteoarthritis effects 9% of adults. It is painful and disabling. Its causes are varied including, hereditary, injury including sports injuries, repetitive stress injuries, infection, or from being overweight.

 

There are no cures for knee or hip osteoarthritis. Treatments are primarily symptomatic, including weight loss, exercise, braces, pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, arthroscopic knee surgery, or even knee or hip replacement. Gentle movements of the joints with exercise and physical therapy appear to be helpful in the treatment of knee or hip osteoarthritis. This suggests that alternative and mind-body practices that involve gentle knee movements may be useful in for treatment. Indeed, yoga practice has been shown to be effective in treating arthritis and Tai Chi and Qigong have also been shown to reduce the physical symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. So, it would seem reasonable to summarize the research into the effectiveness of mind-body practices relative to other exercises in treating knee or hip osteoarthritis.

 

In today’s Research News article “Relative Efficacy of Different Exercises for Pain, Function, Performance and Quality of Life in Knee and Hip Osteoarthritis: Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6459784/), Goh and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the published research studies of the effectiveness of mind-body practices and exercise on knee or hip osteoarthritis. They found 103 controlled trials including a total of 9134 participants. Exercises were separated in strengthening, aerobic, and flexibility exercises and movements combined with mindfulness (e.g. yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong); mind-body practices. Most studies (76) compared these practices versus usual medical care.

 

They report that the published research studies found that in comparison to usual care, all exercises produced significant benefits including reduced pain, improved movement performance, self-reported motor abilities, and quality of life. These benefits were greater for knee osteoarthritis than for hip osteoarthritis. Of the various exercises they found that in general aerobic exercise produced the greatest benefits for pain and movement performance, while mind-body practices had equivalent benefit for pain and produced the greatest benefits for self-reported motor abilities.

 

These results confirm that exercise is good for patients with hip or knee osteoarthritis, improving movement and quality of life and reducing pain. It appears that aerobic exercises and mind-body exercises produce the greatest benefits. This suggests that these practices be recommended for patients with hip or knee osteoarthritis to reduce their difficulties with movement and reduce their suffering.

 

So, improve knee and hip osteoarthritis with exercise and mind-body practices.

 

We don’t choose to have arthritis, but we can choose how to respond to and cope with it. By not allowing pain to define our lives, we can change how we view and relate to pain. That’s mindfulness – we are changing our feelings and thoughts around pain.” – Andrea Minick Rudolph

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Goh, S. L., Persson, M., Stocks, J., Hou, Y., Welton, N. J., Lin, J., … Zhang, W. (2019). Relative Efficacy of Different Exercises for Pain, Function, Performance and Quality of Life in Knee and Hip Osteoarthritis: Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 49(5), 743–761. doi:10.1007/s40279-019-01082-0

 

Abstract

Background

Guidelines recommend exercise as a core treatment for osteoarthritis (OA). However, it is unclear which type of exercise is most effective, leading to inconsistency between different recommendations.

Objectives

The aim of this systematic review and network meta-analysis was to investigate the relative efficacy of different exercises (aerobic, mind–body, strengthening, flexibility/skill, or mixed) for improving pain, function, performance and quality of life (QoL) for knee and hip OA at, or nearest to, 8 weeks.

Methods

We searched nine electronic databases up until December 2017 for randomised controlled trials that compared exercise with usual care or with another exercise type. Bayesian network meta-analysis was used to estimate the relative effect size (ES) and corresponding 95% credibility interval (CrI) (PROSPERO registration: CRD42016033865).

Findings

We identified and analysed 103 trials (9134 participants). Aerobic exercise was most beneficial for pain (ES 1.11; 95% CrI 0.69, 1.54) and performance (1.05; 0.63, 1.48). Mind–body exercise, which had pain benefit equivalent to that of aerobic exercise (1.11; 0.63, 1.59), was the best for function (0.81; 0.27, 1.36). Strengthening and flexibility/skill exercises improved multiple outcomes at a moderate level. Mixed exercise was the least effective for all outcomes and had significantly less pain relief than aerobic and mind–body exercises. The trend was significant for pain (p = 0.01), but not for function (p = 0.07), performance (p = 0.06) or QoL (p = 0.65).

Conclusion

The effect of exercise varies according to the type of exercise and target outcome. Aerobic or mind–body exercise may be the best for pain and function improvements. Strengthening and flexibility/skill exercises may be used for multiple outcomes. Mixed exercise is the least effective and the reason for this merits further investigation.

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (10.1007/s40279-019-01082-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Background

Guidelines recommend exercise as a core treatment for osteoarthritis (OA). However, it is unclear which type of exercise is most effective, leading to inconsistency between different recommendations.

Objectives

The aim of this systematic review and network meta-analysis was to investigate the relative efficacy of different exercises (aerobic, mind–body, strengthening, flexibility/skill, or mixed) for improving pain, function, performance and quality of life (QoL) for knee and hip OA at, or nearest to, 8 weeks.

Methods

We searched nine electronic databases up until December 2017 for randomised controlled trials that compared exercise with usual care or with another exercise type. Bayesian network meta-analysis was used to estimate the relative effect size (ES) and corresponding 95% credibility interval (CrI) (PROSPERO registration: CRD42016033865).

Findings

We identified and analysed 103 trials (9134 participants). Aerobic exercise was most beneficial for pain (ES 1.11; 95% CrI 0.69, 1.54) and performance (1.05; 0.63, 1.48). Mind–body exercise, which had pain benefit equivalent to that of aerobic exercise (1.11; 0.63, 1.59), was the best for function (0.81; 0.27, 1.36). Strengthening and flexibility/skill exercises improved multiple outcomes at a moderate level. Mixed exercise was the least effective for all outcomes and had significantly less pain relief than aerobic and mind–body exercises. The trend was significant for pain (p = 0.01), but not for function (p = 0.07), performance (p = 0.06) or QoL (p = 0.65).

Conclusion

The effect of exercise varies according to the type of exercise and target outcome. Aerobic or mind–body exercise may be the best for pain and function improvements. Strengthening and flexibility/skill exercises may be used for multiple outcomes. Mixed exercise is the least effective and the reason for this merits further investigation.

Key Points

The effect of exercise in knee and hip osteoarthritis depends on type of exercise and outcome of interest.
Aerobic and mind–body exercises appear to be the two most effective exercise therapies for pain and function, whereas strengthening and flexibility exercises appear to be good for moderate improvement of multiple outcomes.
Mixed exercise is the least effective exercise. However, it may be used for patients who do not respond to other types of exercise therapy because it is still better than no exercise control for all four patient-centred outcomes.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6459784/

 

Reduce Fear of Cancer Return with Mind-Body Practices

Reduce Fear of Cancer Return with Mind-Body Practices

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

the mind and body are really one entity, not two separate parts. Stated simply, there is no separation or division between the mind, body, spirit, and emotions. The best stress management program is one that moves you from fear toward peace, however you understand that concept.” – Health Encyclopedia

 

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. Coping with the emotions and stress of a cancer diagnosis is a challenge and there are no simple treatments for these psychological sequelae of cancer diagnosis. But over half of the people diagnosed with cancer are still alive 10 years later and this number is rapidly increasing. It is estimated that 15 million adults and children with a history of cancer are alive in the United States today. Cancer survivors are also at greater risk for developing second cancers and other health conditions and as a result fear of cancer recurrence is a major problem that can interfere with recovery. Hence there is a need to identify safe and effective treatments to reduce fear of cancer return.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to relieve chronic pain. It can also help treat the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including stress,  sleep disturbance, fear, and anxiety and depression. There has been considerable research conducted on the effectiveness of mind-body practices in treating fear of cancer return. So it makes sense to step back and summarize what has been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mind-body interventions for fear of cancer recurrence: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6488231/), Hall and colleagues reviewed, summarized, and performed a meta-analysis of the published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of the effects of mind-body practices on the fear of cancer recurrence. They included studies employing meditation, yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong, cognitive-behavioral skills, spirituality, relaxation, and various art therapies. They uncovered 18 published RCTs that included 2806 total participants.

 

They found that mind-body practices produced significant reduction in fear of cancer recurrence regardless of whether the comparison condition was an active control condition, whether the treatment occurred in group or individual format, whether the treatment contained cognitive behavioral skills or not, or whether the treatment contained meditation practice or not. These reductions were still present, albeit at reduced magnitude, up to 2 years after treatment.

 

Fear of cancer recurrence can produce behaviors that interfere with cancer recovery including increased stress, worry, rumination, etc. So, reducing this fear not only improves the psychological health of the patients but also improves their prognosis. These results suggest that mind-body are safe and effective, and have lasting effects reducing fear of cancer recurrence and thus should be incorporated in the treatments for patients recovering from cancer.

 

So, reduce fear of cancer return with mind-body practices.

 

“It is not usually possible for doctors to say for certain that your cancer has been cured. They can’t definitely say that it will never come back. Living with this uncertainty is one of the most difficult things about having cancer.” – Cancer Research UK

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Hall, D. L., Luberto, C. M., Philpotts, L. L., Song, R., Park, E. R., & Yeh, G. Y. (2018). Mind-body interventions for fear of cancer recurrence: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psycho-oncology, 27(11), 2546–2558. doi:10.1002/pon.4757

 

Abstract

Objective

Fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) is a common existential concern and source of distress among adults with a cancer history. Multiple randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have examined mind-body approaches to mitigating FCR. We summarized characteristics of these trials and calculated their pooled effects on decreasing FCR.

Methods

Six electronic databases were systematically searched from inception to May 2017, using a strategy that included multiple terms for RCTs, cancer, mind-body medicine, and FCR. Data extraction and reporting followed Cochrane and Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Pooled effect sizes on self-report measures of FCR were computed by using random-effects models.

Results

Nineteen RCTs (pooled N = 2806) were included. Most studies (53%) were published since 2015 and targeted a single cancer type (84%; mostly breast). Intervention sessions (median = 6, mode = 4) tended to last 120 minutes and occur across 1.5 months. Delivery was predominantly in-person (63%) to either groups (42%) or individuals (42%). Most interventions incorporated multiple mind-body components (53%), commonly cognitive-behavioral skills (58%), or meditative practices (53%). Small-to-medium pooled effect sizes were observed post-intervention (Hedges’ g = −0.36, 95% CI = −0.49, −0.23, P < .001) and at follow-up assessments (median = 8 months, P < .001). Potential modifiers (control group design, group/individual delivery, use of cognitive-behavioral or mindfulness skills, number of mind-body components, cancer treatment status, and number of sessions) did not reach statistical significance.

Conclusions

Mind-body interventions are efficacious for reducing FCR, with small-to-medium effect sizes that persist after intervention delivery ends. Recommendations include testing effects among survivors of various cancers and exploring the optimal integration of mind-body practices for managing fundamental uncertainties and fears during cancer survivorship.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6488231/

 

Improve Cognitive Function in the Elderly with Mind-Body Practices

Improve Cognitive Function in the Elderly with Mind-Body Practices

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment can learn to practice mindfulness meditation, and by doing so may boost their cognitive reserve.” – Rebecca Erwin Wells

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our cognitive (mental) abilities which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem-solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Research has found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners. Tai Chi and Qigong have also been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging.

 

The research findings are accumulating suggesting that a summarization of what has been learned is called for. In today’s Research News article “The Effects of Mind-Body Exercise on Cognitive Performance in Elderly: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313783/), Zhang and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the published randomized controlled studies (RCTs) of the effectiveness of the mind-body practices of yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong, and Pilates to improve cognitive performance in the elderly (aged 60 and over).

 

They identified 19 published RCTs that included a total of 2539 participants. They report that the published studies reveal a significant, albeit small, improvement in global cognitive function after mind-body practices. This included significant improvements in executive function, language ability, memory, and visuospatial ability. They also report that the amount of improvement was significantly related to the amount of mind-body exercise training. Interestingly, the effects appear to be better in elderly without any signs of dementia than in those with mild dementia symptoms.

 

The findings based upon a fair number of well-controlled studies are relatively consistent revealing that mind-body practices are safe and effective in improving cognitive function in individuals over 60 years of age. This suggests that engaging in these practices can reduce the decline in mental abilities occurring with aging. This suggests that engaging in yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong, or Pilates practices should be recommended for people over 60 years of age.

 

So, improve cognitive function in the elderly with mind-body practices.

 

engagement in mindfulness meditation may enhance cognitive performance in older adults, and that with persistent practice, these benefits may be sustained.” – Grace Bullock

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Zhang, Y., Li, C., Zou, L., Liu, X., & Song, W. (2018). The Effects of Mind-Body Exercise on Cognitive Performance in Elderly: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(12), 2791. doi:10.3390/ijerph15122791

 

Abstract

Background: As the situation of cognitive aging is getting worse, preventing or treating cognitive decline through effective strategies is highly important. This systematic review aims to investigate whether mind-body exercise is an effective approach for treating cognition decline. Methods: Searches for the potential studies were performed on the eight electronic databases (MEDLINE, Scopus, Web of Science, SPORTDiscus, CINAHL, PsycArtilces, CNKI, and Wanfang). Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) examining the effect of mind-body exercise on cognitive performance in older adults were included. Data were extracted and effect sizes were pooled with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) using random-effects models. The Physiotherapy Evidence Database Scale was employed to examine the study quality. Results: Nineteen RCTs including 2539 elders (67.3% female) with fair to good study quality were identified. Mind-body exercise, relative to control intervention, showed significant benefits on cognitive performance, global cognition (Hedges’g = 0.23), executive functions (Hedges’g = 0.25 to 0.65), learning and memory (Hedges’g = 0.37 to 0.49), and language (Hedges’g = 0.35). In addition, no significant adverse events were reported. Conclusion: Mind-body exercise may be a safe and effective intervention for enhancing cognitive function among people aged 60 years or older. Further research evidence is still needed to make a more conclusive statement.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313783/

 

Meditation Comes in Seven Different Varieties

Meditation Comes in Seven Different Varieties

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Experienced meditators agree: a daily meditation practice can have significant benefits for mental and physical health. But one thing they probably won’t agree on? The most effective types of meditation. That’s simply because it’s different for everyone. After all, there are literally hundreds of meditation techniques encompassing practices from different traditions, cultures, spiritual disciplines, and religions.” Headspace

 

Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. As a result, meditation training has been called the third wave of therapies. One problem with understanding meditation effects is that there are, a wide variety of meditation techniques and it is not known which work best for improving different conditions.

 

There are a number of different types of meditation. Classically they’ve been characterized on a continuum with the degree and type of attentional focus. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object. Transcendental meditation is a silent mantra-based focused meditation in which a word or phrase is repeated over and over again. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced regardless of its origin. In Loving Kindness Meditation the individual systematically pictures different individuals from self, to close friends, to enemies and wishes them happiness, well-being, safety, peace, and ease of well-being.

 

But there are a number of techniques that do not fall into these categories and even within these categories there are a number of large variations. In today’s Research News article “What Is Meditation? Proposing an Empirically Derived Classification System.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6803504/), Matko and colleagues attempt to develop a more comprehensive system of classification. They found 309 different techniques but reduced them down to the 20 most popular ones. They recruited 100 meditators with at least 2 years of experience and asked them to rate how similar each technique was to every other technique.

 

They applied multidimensional scaling to the data which uncovered two dimensions that adequately described all of the 20 techniques. The analysis revealed a dimension of the amount of activation involved and a dimension of the amount of body orientation involved. All 20 techniques were classified within these two dimensions. Visual inspection of where the various techniques fell on the two dimensions produces 7 different clusters labelled as “(1) Body-centered meditation, (2) mindful observation, (3) contemplation, (4) mantra meditation, (5) visual concentration, (6) affect-centered meditation, and (7) meditation with movement.”

 

Within the high activation and low body orientation quadrant there was one cluster identified, labelled “Mantra Meditation” including singing sutras/mantras/invocations, repeating syllables and meditation with sounds. Within the low activation and low body orientation quadrant there were three clusters identified, labelled “affect-centered meditation” including cultivating compassion and opening up to blessings; “visual orientations” including visualizations and concentrating on an object; and “contemplation” including contemplating on a question and contradictions or paradoxes.

 

Within the high activation and high body orientation quadrant there was one cluster identified, labelled “meditation with movement” including “meditation with movement, manipulating the breath, and walking and observing senses. Within the low activation and high body orientation quadrant there was one cluster identified, labelled “mindful observation” including observing thoughts, lying meditation, and sitting in silence. Finally, they identified a cluster with high body but straddling the activation dimension, labelled “body centered meditation” including concentrating on a energy centers or channeling, body scan, abdominal breath, nostril breath, and observing the body.

 

This 7-category classification system is interesting and based upon the ratings of experienced meditators. So, there is reason to believe that there is a degree of validity. In addition, the system is able to encompass 20 different popular meditation techniques. It remains for future research to investigate whether this classification system is useful in better understanding the effects of meditation or the underlying brain systems.

 

Not all meditation styles are right for everyone. These practices require different skills and mindsets. How do you know which practice is right for you? “It’s what feels comfortable and what you feel encouraged to practice,” – Mira Dessy

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Matko, K., & Sedlmeier, P. (2019). What Is Meditation? Proposing an Empirically Derived Classification System. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2276. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02276

 

Abstract

Meditation is an umbrella term, which subsumes a huge number of diverse practices. It is still unclear how these practices can be classified in a reasonable way. Earlier proposals have struggled to do justice to the diversity of meditation techniques. To help in solving this issue, we used a novel bottom-up procedure to develop a comprehensive classification system for meditation techniques. In previous studies, we reduced 309 initially identified techniques to the 20 most popular ones. In the present study, 100 experienced meditators were asked to rate the similarity of the selected 20 techniques. Using multidimensional scaling, we found two orthogonal dimensions along which meditation techniques could be classified: activation and amount of body orientation. These dimensions emphasize the role of embodied cognition in meditation. Within these two dimensions, seven main clusters emerged: mindful observation, body-centered meditation, visual concentration, contemplation, affect-centered meditation, mantra meditation, and meditation with movement. We conclude there is no “meditation” as such, but there are rather different groups of techniques that might exert diverse effects. These groups call into question the common division into “focused attention” and “open-monitoring” practices. We propose a new embodied classification system and encourage researchers to evaluate this classification system through comparative studies.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6803504/

 

Improve Physical and Psychological Symptoms and Quality of Life in People Living with HIV with Mind-Body Practices

Improve Physical and Psychological Symptoms and Quality of Life in People Living with HIV with Mind-Body Practices

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Our bodies and minds are intimately connected. Living with HIV can be stressful and can challenge our emotional well-being. Similarly, stress and anxiety can affect our bodies. So maintaining “a healthy mind in a healthy body” is key.” – CATIE

 

More than 35 million people worldwide and 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection. In 1996, the advent of the protease inhibitor and the so-called cocktail changed the prognosis for HIV. Since this development a 20-year-old infected with HIV can now expect to live on average to age 69. Hence, living with HIV is a long-term reality for a very large group of people. People living with HIV infection experience a wide array of physical and psychological symptoms which decrease their perceived quality of life. The symptoms include chronic pain, muscle aches, anxiety, depression, weakness, fear/worries, difficulty with concentration, concerns regarding the need to interact with a complex healthcare system, stigma, and the challenge to come to terms with a new identity as someone living with HIV.

 

Mindfulness training has been found to be effective in treating chronic pain conditions. In addition, mindfulness training has been shown to improve psychological well-being, lower depression and strengthen the immune system of patients with HIV infection. The research and evidence is accumulating. Hence it makes sense to stop and summarize the research on the ability of mind-body practices to help relieve the symptoms of patients living with HIV.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mind-body practices for people living with HIV: a systematic scoping review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6560810/ ), Ramirez-Garcia and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies of the effectiveness of mind-body practices for the treatment of the symptoms of HIV infection. “Mind-body practices include Tai Chi, Qigong, yoga, meditation, and all types of relaxation” training. They identified 84 published research studies.

 

They report that these studies found that for patients with HIV, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) decrease the physical symptoms and the side effects of the drug treatment, and improves the patient’s psychological state. They also report that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and the combining at least three relaxation techniques decreases the patient’s physical and psychological symptoms, and increase quality of life and health. Yoga practice was also found to lower the patient’s blood pressure. Tai Chi, Qigong, and relaxation techniques were found to improve the patient’s physical and psychological condition.

 

Hence the accumulated research suggests that mind-body therapies in addition to antiretroviral treatment are safe and effective treatments to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life of patients living with HIV. This is important as these patients will be living for many years with the symptoms of HIV and the side effects of its treatment. The addition of mind-body practices can help make living with HIV more tolerable and improve the patients’ lives.

 

So, improve physical and psychological symptoms and quality of life in people living with HIV with Mindbody practices.

 

“Living a healthy lifestyle can help you better control HIV and prevent the progression to AIDS. Eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising regularly, practicing safe sex, and following your medicine regimen are all important steps in managing HIV.” – Johns Hopkins Health

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Ramirez-Garcia, M. P., Gagnon, M. P., Colson, S., Côté, J., Flores-Aranda, J., & Dupont, M. (2019). Mind-body practices for people living with HIV: a systematic scoping review. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 19(1), 125. doi:10.1186/s12906-019-2502-z

 

Abstract

Background

Mind-body practices are frequently used by people living with HIV to reduce symptoms and improve wellbeing. These include Tai Chi, Qigong, yoga, meditation, and all types of relaxation. Although there is substantial research on the efficacy of mind-body practices in people living with HIV, there is no summary of the available evidence on these practices. The aim of this scoping review is to map available evidence of mind-body practices in people living with HIV.

Methods

The Arksey and O’Malley (Int J Soc Res Methodol 8:19-32, 2005) methodological framework was used. A search of 16 peer-review and grey literature databases, websites, and relevant journals (1983–2015) was conducted. To identify relevant studies, two reviewers independently applied the inclusion criteria to all abstracts or full articles. Inclusion criteria were: participants were people living with HIV; the intervention was any mind-body practice; and the study design was any research study evaluating one or several of these practices. Data extraction and risk of bias assessment were performed by one reviewer and checked by a second, as needed, using the criteria that Cochrane Collaboration recommends for systematic reviews of interventions (Higgins and Green, Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of intervention. 2011). A tabular and narrative synthesis was carried out for each mind-body practice.

Results

One hundred thirty-six documents drawing on 84 studies met the inclusion criteria. The most widely studied mind-body practice was a combination of least three relaxation techniques (n = 20), followed in declining order by meditation (n = 17), progressive muscle relaxation (n = 10), yoga (n = 9) and hypnosis (n = 8). Slightly over half (47/84) of studies used a RCT design. The interventions were mainly (46/84) conducted in groups and most (51/84) included daily individual home practice. All but two studies were unblinded to participants.

Conclusion

The amount of available research on mind-body practices varies by practice. Almost half of the studies in this review were at high risk of bias. However, mindfulness, a combination of least three relaxation techniques and cognitive behavioral strategies, and yoga show encouraging results in decreasing physical and psychological symptoms and improving quality of life and health in people living with HIV. More rigorous studies are necessary to confirm the results of Tai Chi, Qigong, and some relaxation techniques.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6560810/

 

Reduce Inflammatory Processes with Mindfulness

Reduce Inflammatory Processes with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Millions of people around the world already enjoy the health benefits of mind-body interventions like yoga or meditation, but what they perhaps don’t realize is that these benefits begin at a molecular level and can change the way our genetic code goes about its business. These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed. Put simply, MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.” – Ivana Buric

 

The immune system is designed to protect the body from threats like stress, infection, injury, and toxic chemicals. One of its tools is the Inflammatory response. This response works quite well for short-term infections and injuries. But when inflammation is protracted and becomes chronic, it can itself become a threat to health. It can produce autoimmune diseases such as colitis, Chron’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, increased cancer risk, lung disease, sleep disruption, gum disease, decreased bone health, psoriasis, and depression. Needless to say, chronic inflammation can create major health problems. Indeed, the presence of chronic inflammation is associated with reduced longevity. So, it is important for health to control the inflammatory response, allowing it to do its job in fighting off infection but reducing its activity when no external threat is apparent.

 

Of course, it is far better to prevent chronic inflammation in the first place than to treat it later. Mind-body techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi and meditation have been shown to adaptively reduce the inflammatory response. In today’s Research News article “Effects of Mind-Body Training on Cytokines and Their Interactions with Catecholamines.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5561407/ ), Jang and colleagues recruited healthy adult Mind-Body Training (MBT) practitioners and a group of healthy adult non-practitioners. MBT consists of a combination of mindful movements, breathing exercises, and meditation. The recruited practitioners engaged in MBT on average for about an hour three or four times per week. Blood samples from all participants were drawn and assayed for cytokines, including TNF-Alpha, IL-6, IL-10, and IFN-Gamma, and the catecholamines, Norepinephrine, Epinephrine, and Dopamine.

 

They found that the Mind-Body Training (MBT) group had significantly higher levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine, IL-10. Levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines were lower in the MBT groups but the differences were not significant. In addition, they found that the higher the levels of IL-10, the higher the levels of the catecholamine ratios of Norepinephrine/Epinephrine and Dopamine/Epinephrine. Hence, MBT practice appears to be associated with decreases in inflammatory processes. In addition, high catecholamine ratios are associated with decreased stress levels, suggesting that the high IL-10 levels observed in the MBT group are associated with lower levels of stress.

 

The study did not actively manipulate MBT practice, so no conclusions about causation can be reached. The results, however, support the hypothesis that Mind-Body Training (MBT) is associated with decreased inflammatory responses and stress levels. Other research has shown that mindfulness practice can reduce inflammation and stress. So, it is reasonable to conclude that the present results were due to MBT practice. Since, chronic inflammation is detrimental to the health of the individual, the results suggest that MBT practice would help to improve or maintain the health and longevity of the individual.

 

So, reduce inflammatory processes with mindfulness.

 

“Chronic inflammation is associated with increased risk for psychiatric disorders, autoimmune conditions such as asthma and arthritis, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease and some types of cancer. But . . . mind-body interventions might help reduce the risk for inflammation-related disorders. And not just psychological ones, but even the physical ones like asthma or arthritis.” – Jo Marchant

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Jang, J. H., Park, H. Y., Lee, U. S., Lee, K.-J., & Kang, D.-H. (2017). Effects of Mind-Body Training on Cytokines and Their Interactions with Catecholamines. Psychiatry Investigation, 14(4), 483–490. http://doi.org/10.4306/pi.2017.14.4.483

 

Abstract

Objective

Mind-body training (MBT) may control reactions to stress and regulate the nervous and immune systems. The present study was designed to assess the effects of MBT on plasma cytokines and their interactions with catecholamines.

Methods

The study group consisted of 80 subjects who practice MBT and a control group of 62 healthy subjects. Plasma catecholamine (norepinephrine, NE; epinephrine, E; and dopamine, DA) and cytokine (TNF-alpha, IL-6, IFN-gamma, and IL-10) levels were measured, and the differences between the MBT and control groups and the interactions of cytokines with catecholamines were investigated.

Results

A significant increase in IL-10+IFN-gamma was found in females of the MBT group compared with controls. Also, a significant increase of IL-10 (anti-inflammatory cytokine) in the MBT group was shown in a specific condition in which TNF-alpha and IL-6 (pro-inflammatory cytokines) are almost absent (≤1 ng/L) compared with controls. In the MBT group, significant positive correlations were found between IL-10 and the NE/E ratio and between IL-10 and the DA/E ratio, whereas the control group did not show any such correlations.

Conclusion

MBT may increase IL-10, under specific conditions such as a decrease of pro-inflammatory cytokines or E, which may regulate the stress response and possibly contribute to effective and beneficial interactions between the nervous and immune systems.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5561407/

Improve Memory and Frontal Lobe Function in Older Adults with Mind-Body Practices

Improve Memory and Frontal Lobe Function in Older Adults with Mind-Body Practices

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Scientists . . . found increases in brain volume and improvements on tests of memory and thinking in Chinese seniors who practiced Tai Chi three times a week.” – Science Daily

 

The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity.  Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. Starting in the 20s there is a progressive decrease in the volume and activity of the brain as the years go by. Researchers have been able to investigate various techniques that might slow the process of neurodegeneration that accompanies normal aging. They’ve found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation, yoga and Tai Chi have all been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners. A practice, similar to Tai Chi, Baduanjin is a mind-body training consisted of 8 movements for limbs, body-trunk, and eye movements. But it has not been evaluated for application to aging individuals.

Because Tai Chi and Baduanjin are not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and are safe, having no appreciable side effects, they are appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin Mind-Body Training Changes Resting-State Low-Frequency Fluctuations in the Frontal Lobe of Older Adults: A Resting-State fMRI Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5670503/ ), Tao and colleagues recruited older sedentary adults (50 to 70 years of age) and randomly assigned them to either a no-treatment control who were provided health information or to practice either Tai Chi or Baduanjin mind-body training for 12 weeks, one hour per day, five days per week. Participants were measured before and after training for memory and cognitive functions. They also underwent functional-Magnetic Resonance Imaging (f-MRI).

 

They found that the Tai Chi and Baduanjin groups did not differ, but, in comparison to baseline and the education control group they had significant (18%-24%) increases in memory performance after training. The brain scans demonstrated that, in comparison to the education control group the Baduanjin group had significant increases in activity in the low frequency range in the Medial Prefrontal Cortex while the Tai Chi group had significant increases in activity in the low frequency range in the Dorsal Lateral Prefrontal Cortex. Importantly, they found that the greater the increase in activity in the Prefrontal Areas the greater the improvement in memory.

 

Hence, the results showed that both mind-body practices of Tai Chi and Baduanjin improved memory in older adults in association with increases in Prefrontal Lobe activity. The Prefrontal cortex has been associated previously with memory, attention, and high-level thinking (executive function). The present results suggest that the mind-body practices of Tai Chi and Baduanjin act to improve memory in older adults by producing neuroplastic changes that increase activity in the brain’s Prefrontal Areas. Interestingly, the results also show that the two mind-body practices may act on different mechanisms in the brain; with Tai Chi acting on the medial areas of the Prefrontal Cortex while Baduanjin acting on the Dorsal Lateral areas.

 

Memory deteriorates with aging and this can progress to severe memory impairments and dementia. The results of this study suggest that engagement in the mind-body practices of Tai Chi and Baduanjin may be able to slow or prevent that decline by strengthening brain processing in the Prefrontal Cortex. Since both Tai Chi and Baduanjin are simple and safe exercises that can be easily learned and practiced at home alone or in groups, they are economical and scalable practices to improve memory during aging. As such, they should be recommended for older adults.

 

So, improve memory and frontal lobe function in older adults with mind-body practices.

 

“Because Tai Chi can be done indoors or out, and as a group activity or by yourself, it suits both people who like to work out alone at home and those who prefer to get their exercise in a social setting.” – Mark Huntsman

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Tao, J., Chen, X., Liu, J., Egorova, N., Xue, X., Liu, W., … Kong, J. (2017). Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin Mind-Body Training Changes Resting-State Low-Frequency Fluctuations in the Frontal Lobe of Older Adults: A Resting-State fMRI Study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, 514. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00514

 

Abstract

Age-related cognitive decline is a significant public health concern. Recently, non-pharmacological methods, such as physical activity and mental training practices, have emerged as promising low-cost methods to slow the progression of age-related memory decline. In this study, we investigated if Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) and Baduanjin modulated the fractional amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations (fALFF) in different frequency bands (low-frequency: 0.01–0.08 Hz; slow-5: 0.01–0.027 Hz; slow-4: 0.027–0.073 Hz) and improved memory function. Older adults were recruited for the randomized study. Participants in the TCC and Baduanjin groups received 12 weeks of training (1 h/day for 5 days/week). Participants in the control group received basic health education. Each subject participated in memory tests and fMRI scans at the beginning and end of the experiment. We found that compared to the control group: (1) TCC and Baduanjin groups demonstrated significant improvements in memory function; (2) TCC increased fALFF in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in the slow-5 and low-frequency bands; and (3) Baduanjin increased fALFF in the medial PFC in the slow-5 and low-frequency bands. This increase was positively associated with memory function improvement in the slow-5 and low-frequency bands across the TCC and Baduanjin groups. Our results suggest that TCC and Baduanjin may work through different brain mechanisms to prevent memory decline due to aging.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5670503/

Reduce Pain in Children with Mind-Body Practices

Reduce Pain in Children with Mind-Body Practices

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Guided imagery is a meditative process that uses visualization and imagination to bring awareness to the mind-body connection. Children can easily access this healing process because they’re naturally imaginative. By relaxing into a vivid story they gain tools to deal with stress, pain or difficult feelings.” – Catherine Gillespie-Lopes

 

We all have to deal with pain. It’s inevitable, but hopefully it’s mild and short lived. For a wide swath of humanity, however, pain is a constant in their lives. At least 100 million adult Americans have chronic pain conditions. Sadly, about a quarter to a third of children experience chronic pain. It has to be kept in mind that pain is an important signal that there is something wrong or that damage is occurring. This signals that some form of action is needed to mitigate the damage. This is an important signal that is ignored at the individual’s peril. So, in dealing with pain, it’s important that pain signals not be blocked or prevented. They need to be perceived. But, methods are needed to mitigate the psychological distress produced by chronic pain.

 

The most common treatment for chronic pain is drugs. These include over-the-counter analgesics and opioids. But opioids are dangerous and prescription opioid overdoses kill more than 14,000 people annually. The use of drugs in children is even more complicated and potentially directly harmful or could damage the developing brain. So, there is a great need to find safe and effective ways to lower the psychological distress and improve children’s ability to cope with the pain.

 

Pain involves both physical and psychological issues. The stress, fear, and anxiety produced by pain tends to elicit responses that actually amplify the pain. So, reducing the emotional reactions to pain may be helpful in pain management. There is an accumulating volume of research findings to demonstrate that mind-body therapies have highly beneficial effects on the health and well-being of humans. These include meditationyogatai chi, qigong, biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, hypnosis, acupuncture, and deep breathing exercises. Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve emotion regulation producing more adaptive and less maladaptive responses to emotions. Indeed, mindfulness practices are effective in treating pain in adults. But there is very little systematic study of the application of these practices for the treatment of chronic pain in children.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Mind–Body Approach to Pediatric Pain Management.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5483625/, Brown and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the use of mind-body techniques to treat pain in children. They found that there is clear evidence from the research that yoga practice and acupuncture are effective in the treatment of pain in both adults and children. On the other hand, they found that meditation, mindfulness training, and hypnosis are effective for treating pain in adults, but that there is a void of research for its application in children.

 

Hence the published research literature is encouraging. Where there have been studies, mind-body practices have been found to safely and effectively reduce chronic pain in both adults and children. A great advantage of these treatments is that they have little or no side effects other than positive ones and are thus a promising safe alternative to the use of dangerous drugs. But, there is obviously a need for much more research on the effectiveness of mind-body techniques for chronic pain in children.

 

So, reduce pain in children with mind-body practices.

 

“Mindfulness provides a more accurate perception of pain . . . For instance, you might think that you’re in pain all day. But bringing awareness to your pain might reveal that it actually peaks, valleys and completely subsides. One of Goldstein’s clients believed that his pain was constant throughout the day. But when he examined his pain, he realized it hits him about six times a day. This helped to lift his frustration and anxiety.” –  Margarita Tartakovsky

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Brown, M. L., Rojas, E., & Gouda, S. (2017). A Mind–Body Approach to Pediatric Pain Management. Children, 4(6), 50. http://doi.org/10.3390/children4060050

 

Abstract

Pain is a significant public health problem that affects all populations and has significant financial, physical and psychological impact. Opioid medications, once the mainstay of pain therapy across the spectrum, can be associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) guidelines recommend that non-opioid pain medications are preferred for chronic pain outside of certain indications (cancer, palliative and end of life care). Mindfulness, hypnosis, acupuncture and yoga are four examples of mind–body techniques that are often used in the adult population for pain and symptom management. In addition to providing significant pain relief, several studies have reported reduced use of opioid medications when mind–body therapies are implemented. Mind–body medicine is another approach that can be used in children with both acute and chronic pain to improve pain management and quality of life.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5483625/

Change Gene Expression to Lessen the Effects of Chronic Stress with Mind-Body Practices

Change Gene Expression to Lessen the Effects of Chronic Stress with Mind-Body Practices

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Millions of people around the world already enjoy the health benefits of mind-body interventions like yoga or meditation, but what they perhaps don’t realise is that these benefits begin at a molecular level and can change the way our genetic code goes about its business. These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed. Put simply, MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.” – Ivana Buric

 

There is an accumulating volume of research findings to demonstrate that Mind-body practices have highly beneficial effects on the health and well-being of humans. These include meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, hypnosis, and deep breathing exercises. Because of their proven benefits the application of these practices to relieving human suffering has skyrocketed.

 

It is clear that Mind-body practices affect the physiology. In other words, the mind can alter the body. In turn, the genes can affect our minds. In fact, the genes have been shown to affect an individual’s inherent level of mindfulness. These interactions are well documented. The mechanisms by which they occur, however, are not well understood. It has been shown that contemplative practices help create balance in the inflammatory response which is very beneficial for health. But, the mechanism through which contemplative practices affect the immune system is not known. The genes dictate all of the chemical processes in our bodies including immune and inflammatory responses. So, it would seem reasonable to investigate whether alterations in gene expressions might be the intermediary between mind-body therapies and health.

 

The immune system is designed to protect the body from threats like stress, infection, injury, and toxic chemicals. One of its tools is the Inflammatory response. Its primary effect is to increase blood circulation around the infected area, dilating the blood vessels around the site of inflammation. It also produces gaps in the cell walls surrounding the infected area, allowing the larger immune cells, to pass. It also tends to increase body temperature to further fight infection. This response works quite well for short-term infections and injuries and as such is an important defense mechanism for the body. But when inflammation is protracted and becomes chronic, it can itself become a threat to health, producing autoimmune diseases such as colitis, Chron’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, increased cancer risk, lung disease, sleep disruption, gum disease, decreased bone health, psoriasis, and depression.

Mind-body practices appear to relax the physical systems of the body including the immune system, reducing inflammation. Mind-body techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi and meditation have been shown to adaptively reduce the inflammatory response. Hence, it makes sense to investigate the effects of mind-body practices on gene expressions that underlie the immune and inflammatory responses. In today’s Research News article “What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5472657/, Buric and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the effects of mind-body practices on gene expressions.

 

They found 18 published research articles. These articles, in general, report that following engaging in mind-body practices there is a reduction in the expression of genes that are involved in the inflammatory response resultant from chronic stress, particularly downregulation of NF-κB-targeted genes. It has been well established that mind-body practices reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. The published research on the effects of mind-body practices on gene expressions provide a mechanism by which these practices affect the stress response. They do so by affecting the physiology on the molecular level altering the genes that underlie the chemical processes involved in the inflammatory responses to stress.

 

These findings suggest that Mind-body practices can improve the health and well-being of the practitioner. One of the premiere mechanisms by which this is accomplished is by reducing the individual’s responses to the debilitating effects of chronic stress. Many of the difficulties produced by chronic stress are caused by producing a chronic inflammatory response damaging tissues. It appears that mind-body practices improve health by altering the genes that underlie these processes.

 

So, change gene expression to lessen the effects of chronic stress with mind-body practices.

 

“doing yoga or meditating may lead to a decrease in cyctokine production, and a reversal of the inflammatory gene, which ultimately lowers the risk of inflammation-related diseases and conditions.” – Brianna Steinhilber

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Buric, I., Farias, M., Jong, J., Mee, C., & Brazil, I. A. (2017). What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices. Frontiers in Immunology, 8, 670. http://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2017.00670

 

Abstract

There is considerable evidence for the effectiveness of mind–body interventions (MBIs) in improving mental and physical health, but the molecular mechanisms of these benefits remain poorly understood. One hypothesis is that MBIs reverse expression of genes involved in inflammatory reactions that are induced by stress. This systematic review was conducted to examine changes in gene expression that occur after MBIs and to explore how these molecular changes are related to health. We searched PubMed throughout September 2016 to look for studies that have used gene expression analysis in MBIs (i.e., mindfulness, yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, relaxation response, and breath regulation). Due to the limited quantity of studies, we included both clinical and non-clinical samples with any type of research design. Eighteen relevant studies were retrieved and analyzed. Overall, the studies indicate that these practices are associated with a downregulation of nuclear factor kappa B pathway; this is the opposite of the effects of chronic stress on gene expression and suggests that MBI practices may lead to a reduced risk of inflammation-related diseases. However, it is unclear how the effects of MBIs compare to other healthy interventions such as exercise or nutrition due to the small number of available studies. More research is required to be able to understand the effects of MBIs at the molecular level.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5472657/