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/

Improve Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with Mind-Body Practices

Improve Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) 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 currently epidemic in the US. Roughly 6.4 million American children have been diagnosed with ADHD and 6.4% of American children are being treated with medication. There has been a 42% increase in the diagnoses of ADHD in the last 8 years. This increase in diagnoses probably represents an increase in awareness and willingness to diagnose ADHD rather than an increase in cases of ADHD. “Many children who like to run and jump may be high-energy. But that doesn’t mean they are hyperactive. To count as ADHD, symptoms have to be on the extreme side and have to cause problems in the child’s life. Also, they have to have been doing this for at least 6 months.” – WebMD

 

What can be done about this huge problem that is affecting such a large proportion of American children and adults? The most common treatment is drugs, like methylphenidate, Ritalin, which helps reduce 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, including nervousness agitation, anxiety, irritability, sleep and appetite problems, head and stomach aches, nausea, dizziness, and heart palpitations. They can also be addictive and can readily be abused. If that’s not enough using drugs that alter the brain in children during the time of brain development is fraught with long-term risks. 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.  Is there a better way?

 

There are indications that mind-body training may be a more effective treatment for ADHD. It makes sense that it should be, as the skills and abilities strengthened by mind-body training are identical to those that are defective in ADHDattentionimpulse controlexecutive functionemotion control, and mood improvement. Mind-body practices include meditationtai chi, qigongyoga , etc. Movement based mind-body practices would appear to be particularly appropriate as they are also exercise and as such an outlet for some of the excess energy.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mind–Body Therapy for Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: http://www.mdpi.com/2227-9067/4/5/31/htm

Herbert and Esparham review and summarize the published research literature on the effectiveness of mind-body practices for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

 

They report that in general movement based mind-body practices are effective for children with ADHD.  The research suggests that yoga practice improves attention, executive function, sleep patterns, produces less anxiety, more ability to focus at school, and less conflicts in children. The ancient Chinese slow movement practice of Tai Chi also appears to help with ADHD, producing significantly decreased anxiety, daydreaming, inappropriate emotions, and hyperactivity, and improved conduct. Meditation practice also appears to be effective for the symptoms of ADHD. The research indicates that mindfulness meditation practice appears to reduce ADHD symptoms and internalization, and improve attention and thinking. The research suggests that meditation practice acts by producing changes to the brains of children with ADHD.

 

These are exciting findings that suggest that mind-body practices are effective treatments for ADHD in children. This is particularly heartening as these mind-body practices are safe, and unlike drugs, have no significant side effects. They are also inexpensive treatments in comparison to active therapies and drugs. They are also convenient for the children to practice when time is available at home or school. Families and teachers can access online or purchase videos as resources to guide the practices. In addition, there are indications that these practices produce relatively permanent beneficial changes in the children’s brains, suggesting lasting benefits.

 

So, improve attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with mind-body practices.

 

“Mindfulness meditation for people with ADHD? It may seem like a stretch, since difficulty with mindfulness is the very challenge for those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And yet recent research shows that mindfulness training can be adapted for this condition and that it can improve concentration.”  – Lynda McCullough

 

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

Herbert, A.; Esparham, A. Mind–Body Therapy for Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Children 2017, 4, 31. doi:10.3390/children4050031

 

Abstract

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is pervasive among the pediatric population and new treatments with minimal adverse effects are necessary to be studied. The purpose of this article is to review current research studying mind-body therapies for treatment of children diagnosed with ADHD. Literature was reviewed pertaining to the effectiveness of movement-based therapies and mindfulness/meditation-based therapies for ADHD. Many positive effects of yoga, Tai Chi, physical activity, and meditation may significantly improve symptoms of ADHD among children.

http://www.mdpi.com/2227-9067/4/5/31/htm

Improve Inflammatory Biomarkers in Healthy and Cancer Patients with Mindfulness

Improve Inflammatory Biomarkers in Healthy and Cancer Patients with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“stressed-out adults who practised mindfulness meditation not only had their brain connectivity altered, they also had reduced levels of a key inflammation biomarker, known as Interleukin-6, four months later. That’s important because, in high doses, Interleukin-6 has been linked to inflammation-related diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune conditions.” – Fiona McDonald

 

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. Most of these results were obtained from treating diseased individuals. It is important to establish if Mind-body techniques can be effective in preventing chronic inflammation also in healthy individuals. In today’s Research News article “Effects of mindfulness-based interventions on biomarkers in healthy and cancer populations: a systematic review.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5324275/

Sanada and colleagues review the published research literature on the effects of Mind-body practices on biomarkers of the inflammatory response and compare the effects in healthy individuals to that of cancer patients.

 

They examined randomized controlled trials that trained participants in Mind-body practices for at least 6 weeks and measured biomarkers of the inflammatory response including  cytokines, neuropeptides and C-reactive protein (CRP). They found 7 studies on healthy individuals and 6 on cancer patients. They found that the literature, in general, indicated that Mind-body techniques had significant effects on these inflammatory biomarkers, but different studies using different techniques found that different biomarkers were affected. In regard to healthy individuals the studies reported no effects of Mind-body practices on cytokines, but significant increases in neuropeptides, particularly insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). In cancer patients the literature reports that Mind-body practices result in reduction of cytokines that promote inflammation, particularly IL-6 and TNF. In general the results for Mind-body practices effects on inflammatory biomarkers were mixed and at times contradictory.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that Mind-body practices affect inflammatory biomarkers in both healthy individuals and cancer patients. But, it is clear that the effects are not simple and straightforward. This could well be due to the mixture of different Mind-body practices. Even individual techniques such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) contain complex mixtures of Mind-body practices. As such, it is difficult to separate out their varying effects. But, nevertheless the literature suggests that Mind-body practices affect the inflammatory response, which may, to some extent, explain these practices’ beneficial effects on health.

 

So, improve inflammatory biomarkers in healthy and cancer patients with mindfulness.

 

“It turns out that some of the most difficult elements of the cancer experience are very well-suited to a mindfulness practice.” – Linda Carlson

 

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

Sanada, K., Alda Díez, M., Salas Valero, M., Pérez-Yus, M. C., Demarzo, M. M. P., Montero-Marín, J., … García-Campayo, J. (2017). Effects of mindfulness-based interventions on biomarkers in healthy and cancer populations: a systematic review. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 17, 125. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-017-1638-y

 

Abstract

Background

Only a small number of articles have investigated the relationship between mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) and biomarkers. The aim of this systematic review was to study the effect of MBIs on specific biomarkers (cytokines, neuropeptides and C-reactive protein (CRP)) in both healthy subjects and cancer patients.

Methods

A search was conducted using PubMed, EMBASE, PsycINFO and the Cochrane library between 1980 and September 2016.

Results

A total of 13 studies with 1110 participants were included. In the healthy population, MBIs had no effect on cytokines, but were found to increase the levels of the neuropeptide insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). With respect to neuropeptide Y, despite the absence of post-intervention differences, MBIs may enhance recovery from stress. With regard to CRP, MBIs could be effective in lower Body Mass Index (BMI) individuals. In cancer patients, MBIs seem to have some effect on cytokine levels, although it was not possible to determine which specific cytokines were affected. One possibility is that MBIs might aid recovery of the immune system, increasing the production of interleukin (IL)-4 and decreasing interferon gamma (IFN-γ).

Conclusions

MBIs may be involved in changes from a depressive/carcinogenic profile to a more normalized one. However, given the complexity and different contexts of the immune system, and the fact that this investigation is still in its preliminary stage, additional randomized controlled trials are needed to further establish the impact of MBI programmes on biomarkers in both clinical and non-clinical populations.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5324275/

Improve Mental Health in Disadvantaged Populations with Mindfulness

Improve Mental Health in Disadvantaged Populations with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness training could be integrated into educational settings on a city, state, or national level, thus promoting health and mental health. Integrating mindfulness-based practices into educational settings could offer the potential to promote a more positive path for our children, something that would be particularly beneficial for disadvantaged urban youth like the kids in our studies.” –  Tamar Mendelson

 

Disadvantaged populations have a disproportionate share of mental health issues. Indeed, the lower the socioeconomic status of an individual the greater the likelihood of a mental disorder. It is estimated that major mental illnesses are almost 3 times more likely in the disadvantaged, including almost double the incidence of depression, triple the incidence of anxiety disorders, alcohol abuse, and eating disorders. These higher incidences of mental health issues occur, in part, due to mental health problems leading to unemployment and poverty, but also to the stresses of life in poverty.

 

The disadvantaged are much more likely to be uninsured, not have mental health services available, and less likely to seek treatment. In addition, when they are treated it is almost exclusively with drugs. These often do not work, have adverse effects, or are not taken as prescribed and are thus ineffective. Most psychotherapies were developed to treat disorders in affluent populations and are not affordable or sensitive to the unique situations and education levels of the disadvantaged. So, very few disadvantaged people with mental health problems are treated with psychotherapies.

 

Hence, there is a great need for alternative treatments for the mentally ill disadvantaged. One increasingly popular alternative is mind-body practices. These include meditation, tai chi, qigong, yoga, guided imagery, etc. In today’s Research News article “Mind–Body Approaches to Treating Mental Health Symptoms Among Disadvantaged Populations: A Comprehensive Review.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4761814/

Burnett-Zeigler and colleagues review the published research literature on the effectiveness of mind-body practices for the treatment of mental health issues in disadvantaged populations.

 

They found that in general mind-body techniques are feasible, acceptable, and efficacious with disadvantaged populations. The published research reports than Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs produced significant improvements in disadvantaged populations in general health, social functioning, vitality, physical and emotional role functioning, stress, mindfulness, anxiety, self-compassion, life satisfaction, depression, relationships, awareness, self-acceptance, and self-empowerment, nonreactivity, improved self-care, and decreased distress. The research also reports that yoga practice results in significant improvements in distressed mood, depression, emotional well-being, body weight, depression, and disease-specific quality of life. Other mind-body techniques were also reported to have similar benefits.

 

Hence the published research studies are fairly uniform in finding that mind-body practices can be successfully implemented with disadvantaged populations and produce significant mental health benefits. Although much more research is needed, these are exciting findings. Mind-body techniques show tremendous promise for the mental health needs of the disadvantaged. They can be implemented cost-effectively and many of these practices can be employed at home on convenient schedules. Hence mind-body practices, if implemented broadly, may be major contributors to improved mental health in disadvantaged populations. This, in turn, may lead to better employment possibilities and a route out of poverty.

 

So, improve mental health in disadvantaged populations with mindfulness.

 

“Research and experience have shown that meditation-based or contemplative practices have proven to be beneficial with populations that are considered at risk, marginalized, or oppressed and with those who are incarcerated.– Sadye Logan

 

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

Burnett-Zeigler, I., Schuette, S., Victorson, D., & Wisner, K. L. (2016). Mind–Body Approaches to Treating Mental Health Symptoms Among Disadvantaged Populations: A Comprehensive Review. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 22(2), 115–124. http://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2015.0038

 

Abstract

Mind–body approaches are commonly used to treat a variety of chronic health conditions, including depression and anxiety. A substantial proportion of individuals with depression and anxiety disorders do not receive conventional treatment; disadvantaged individuals are especially unlikely to receive treatment. Mind–body approaches offer a potentially more accessible and acceptable alternative to conventional mental health treatment for disadvantaged individuals, who may not otherwise receive mental health treatment. This review examines evidence for the efficacy of mind–body interventions for mental health symptoms among disadvantaged populations. While rates of utilization were relatively lower for racial/ethnic minorities, evidence suggests that significant proportions of racial/ethnic minorities are using complementary health approaches as health treatments, especially prayer/healers and natural or herbal remedies. This review of studies on the efficacy of mind–body interventions among disadvantaged populations found evidence for the efficacy of mind–body approaches for several mental and physical health symptoms, functioning, self-care, and overall quality of life.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4761814/

 

Change the Genes and the Brain for the Better with Mindfulness

Change the Genes and the Brain for the Better with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Scientists looked at how mindfulness practice affected genetic differences between one group of expert meditators compared with a control group of untrained meditators. “most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs.” – Perla Kaliman

 

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 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 therapies affect the physiology. In other words, the mind can alter the body. One way it can do that is by altering the nervous system. Meditation training has been shown to alter the nervous system, increasing the size and connectivity of structures associated with present moment awareness, higher level thinking, and regulation of emotions, while decreasing the size and connectivity of structures associated with mind wandering and self-referential thinking, known as the Default Mode Network (DMN). The brain is capable of changing and adapting in a process called neuroplasticity. As a result, the neural changes produced by meditation training become relatively permanent.

 

The mind can also affect the physiology through altering genetic processes. The genes dictate all of the chemical processes in our bodies including the immune system and the inflammatory response. In turn, the genes can affect our minds. In fact, the genes have been shown to affect an individual’s inherent emotions and level of mindfulness.

 

There has been a considerable amount of research over the last decade on the effects of mind-body therapies on the nervous system and gene expression. In today’s Research News article “The Embodied Mind: A Review on Functional Genomic and Neurological Correlates of Mind-Body Therapies.” See summary below. Muehsam and colleagues review and summarize these studies. They categorized the studies as either top-down, where mind-body therapies alter the physiology by altering attention, intention, and cognitive processes, or bottom-up, where the physical processes involved in mind-body therapies affect the nervous system. Hence, mind-body therapies act by altering the immune systems and the nervous system.

 

One of the primary actions of mind-body therapies is to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress which, in turn, affects wellness and well-being.  Studies indicate that these therapies alter the response of the brain-hormone axis that results in the production of glucocorticoids and alters the balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Both of these effects alter gene expression, cellular aging, immune function, and healthy brain function. In addition, mind-body therapies can alter the immune systems inflammatory processes via action on the vagus nerve. This reduces the damage that can occur due to chronic stress producing chronic inflammation. Thus mind-body therapies act by eliminating or lessening the harmful effects of chronic stressors, thus allowing the body’s innate healing responses to be fully expressed.

 

The second major way mind-body practices impact the individual’s health and well-being is through neuromodulation. Mind-body practices alter the individual’s cognitive/affective state which have been shown to influence activity in brain regions including orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, and somatosensory cortex. These practices alter the volume of brain tissue, its activity, and its connectivity with other brain regions and appear to produce relatively permanent changes in the brain via neuroplasticity. In addition, they decrease the size and connectivity of structures associated with mind wandering and self-referential thinking, known as the Default Mode Network (DMN). These changes, in turn, affect attention, learning, and emotion regulation, all of which are important for psychological health.

 

So, the published research literature reflects an increasing understanding of not only the beneficial effects of mind-body practices, but also the physiological processes and mechanisms though which these benefits occur. This produces a clear picture that mind-body practices act through the nervous and immune systems to improve the health and well-being of the practitioners.

 

“Mindfulness:  a way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress. It can be integrated into one’s religious or spiritual life, or practiced as a form of secular mental training.  When we take a seat, take a breath, and commit to being mindful, particularly when we gather with others who are doing the same, we have the potential to be changed.” – Christina Congleton

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

Muehsam D, Lutgendorf S, Mills PJ, Rickhi B, Chevalier G, Bat N, Chopra D, Gurfein B. The Embodied Mind: A Review on Functional Genomic and Neurological Correlates of Mind-Body Therapies. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2016 Dec 22. pii: S0149-7634(16)30325-6. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.12.027. [Epub ahead of print] Review.

 

Highlights

  • Functional genomic and neurological correlates of mind-body practices are reviewed.
  • EEG and Neuroimaging correlates of mind-body therapies and meditation are reviewed.
  • Mechanisms of action by which mind-body practices influence health outcomes are discussed

Abstract

A broad range of mind-body therapies (MBTs) are used by the public today, and a growing body of clinical and basic sciences research has resulted in evidence-based integration of many MBTs into clinical practice. Basic sciences research has identified some of the physiological correlates of MBT practices, leading to a better understanding of the processes by which emotional, cognitive and psychosocial factors can influence health outcomes and well-being. In particular, results from functional genomics and neuroimaging describe some of the processes involved in the mind-body connection and how these can influence health outcomes. Functional genomic and neurophysiological correlates of MBTs are reviewed, detailing studies showing changes in sympathetic nervous system activation of gene transcription factors involved in immune function and inflammation, electroencephalographic and neuroimaging studies on MBT practices, and persistent changes in neural function and morphology associated with these practices. While the broad diversity of study designs and MBTs studied presents a patchwork of results requiring further validation through replication and longitudinal studies, clear themes emerge for MBTs as immunomodulatory, with effects on leukocyte transcription and function related to inflammatory and innate immune responses, and neuromodulatory, with effects on brain function and morphology relevant for attention, learning, and emotion regulation. By detailing the potential mechanisms of action by which MBTs may influence health outcomes, the data generated by these studies have contributed significantly towards a better understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying MBTs.

Improve Self-Control and Emotionality with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“I noticed that people who have addictions and those who teach mindfulness speak the same language. Mindfulness teachers will tell you that stress is caused by craving. If you can let go of that craving, then your stress will dissolve, and practicing mindfulness is the way to do that.” – Judson Brewer

 

There are many addictions, from exercise, to alcohol, to sex, to drugs, to gambling, to cigarettes. There are a number of differences produced by the specific nature of each addiction. But, there are also some general features. The core components of addiction include an enhanced incentive for the activity or substance (craving), impaired self-control (impulsivity and compulsivity), emotional dysregulation (negative mood) and increased reactivity to stress.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to be helpful with each of these components, decreasing cravings, impulsiveness, and psychological and physiological responses to stress, and increasing emotion regulation.  It is no wonder then that mindfulness training has been found to be effective for the treatment of a variety of addictions.  Addictions appear to act via changes to the brain systems affecting self-control; activity in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) and adjacent medial Prefrontal Cortex (mPFC). Mindfulness training has also been shown to alter the activity of these structures in the opposite direction through a process called neuroplasticity. This makes a case that mindfulness acts to help in the treatment of addictions by altering the same structures involved in addictions.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness meditation improves emotion regulation and reduces drug abuse.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1279737795383477/?type=3&theater

or below or view the full text of the study at:

http://www.drugandalcoholdependence.com/article/S0376-8716(16)00117-4/fulltext

Tang and colleagues review a number of their studies on the relationships between mindfulness, the psychological properties of addictions, and the neural systems underlying self-control and addiction. They employed a mindfulness meditation training technique called integrative body–mind training (IBMT) and found that it improved executive function, emotions, and responsiveness to stress.

 

In other studies, they investigated the brain’s response to IBMT and found that it increased activity in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) which is known to be involved in emotion regulation and the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, that is known to be an antidote to stress responses. These results strongly suggest that mindfulness training (IBMT) acts in ways that would tend to counteract the effects of addictions including self-control and stress responsiveness. Tang and colleagues went on to test IBMT on students who were addicted to cigarettes (nicotine). They found that smokers had lower activity in Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) and the medial Prefrontal Cortex (mPFC). But, IBMT training significantly reduced cigarette smoking and increased both ACC and mPFC activity.

 

These results suggest that mindfulness meditation increases activity in ACC and mPFC which are involved in emotion regulation and self-control. The improvements in these areas, in turn, assist in the prevention and treatment of addictions. These studies have produced an integrated theory of how mindfulness effects addiction by altering the nervous system in such a way as to counteract the psychological issues that underlie addictions. These studies are leading to a better understanding of how mindfulness training produces improvements in addictions.

 

So, improve self-control and emotionality with mindfulness and reduce addictions.

 

“mindfulness is likely an effective tool in helping people with addiction because it’s a single, simple skill that a person can practice multiple times throughout their day, every day, regardless of the life challenges that arise. With so much opportunity for practice—rather than, say, only practicing when someone offers them a cigarette—people can learn that skill deeply.” –  James Davis

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

Tang YY, Tang R, Posner MI. Mindfulness meditation improves emotion regulation and reduces drug abuse. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2016 Jun 1;163 Suppl 1:S13-8. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.11.041

 

Highlights

  • We review the effects of mindfulness meditation on emotion regulation and addiction.
  • We propose the brain mechanism of mindfulness meditation.
  • We examine addiction treatment using mindfulness meditation.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: The core clinical symptoms of addiction include an enhanced incentive for drug taking (craving), impaired self-control (impulsivity and compulsivity), emotional dysregulation (negative mood) and increased stress reactivity. Symptoms related to impaired self-control involve reduced activity in anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), adjacent prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and other brain areas. Behavioral training such asmindfulness meditation can increase the function of control networks including those leading to improved emotion regulation and thus may be a promising approach for the treatment of addiction.

METHODS: In a series of randomized controlled trials (RCTs), we tested whether increased ACC/mPFC activity is related to better self-control abilities in executive functions, emotion regulation and stress response in healthy and addicted populations. After a brief mindfulness training (Integrative Body-Mind Training, IBMT), we used the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) and Profile of Mood States (POMS) to measure emotion regulation, salivary cortisol for the stress response and fMRI for brain functional and DTI structural changes. Relaxation training was used to serve as an active control.

RESULTS: In both smokers and nonsmokers, improved self-control abilities in emotion regulation and stress reduction were found after training and these changes were related to increased ACC/mPFC activity following training. Compared with nonsmokers, smokers showed reduced ACC/mPFC activity in the self-control network before training, and these deficits were ameliorated after training.

CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that promoting emotion regulation and improving ACC/mPFC brain activity can help for addiction prevention and treatment.

http://www.drugandalcoholdependence.com/article/S0376-8716(16)00117-4/fulltext

 

 

Mindfulness Interacts with the Genes in Producing Personality Change

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“It had been traditionally assumed that personality traits are relatively stable entities, but more recent research demonstrates that personality, including disposition towards mindfulness, can change over time as a result of life experiences or through mindfulness practice.” – Yi‑Yuan Tang

 

The genes dictate all of the chemical processes in our bodies including brain development and plasticity. One gene, in particular, encodes the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). It is a protein found in the brain and spinal cord that promotes the survival of nerve cells by playing a role in the growth, maturation, and maintenance of these cells. In the brain, the BDNF protein is active at the connections between nerve cells (synapses), where cell-to-cell communication occurs. The synapses can change and adapt over time in response to experience, a characteristic called neuroplasticity. The BDNF protein helps regulate neuroplasticity, which is important for learning and memory.

 

Since BDNF is involved in the development of the nervous system, and the nervous system, in part, determines our personality characteristics, it would seem reasonable to suspect that the genes underlying BDNF production would be associated with personality. In addition, since BDNF is involved in the plasticity of the nervous system, its ability to change and adapt to the environment and experience, it would seem reasonable to suspect that the genes underlying BDNF production would be associated with variations in brain neuroplasticity. The genes underlying BDNF production have a major variant that is present in approximately 25% of the population. It is possible that this variant may be responsible, in part, for differences between people in personality and neuroplasticity.

 

This reasoning taken together with the facts that mindfulness practices, including meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, are known to change the nervous system through neuroplasticity and are known to change some aspects of personality, it would seem reasonable to suspect that different variants of the genes underlying BDNF production would be associated with differences in the ability of mind body practices to change the brain and personality. This complex logic leads to the idea that differences in BDNF gene variants may produce different personality changes in response to mind-body practices.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Mind-Body Training on Personality and Behavioral Activation and Inhibition System According to BDNF Val66Met Polymorphism.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1276252265732030/?type=3&theater

or below or view the full text of the study at:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4878969/

Jung and colleagues examine this hypothesis. They recruited a group of participants who regularly practiced Brain Wave Vibration, a practice that is a movement based meditation resembling yoga, martial arts, and meditation. They also recruited a group who did not engage in mind-body practices. Both groups were separated into subgroups based upon whether they carried the normal or the variant of the BDNF gene. All participants were measured for personality and behavioral activation/inhibition.

 

They found that the BDNF gene variant affected personality with control participants who had the variant higher in neuroticism and lower in extroversion. Neuroticism is known to be associated with personality problems and mental illness. So, these results suggest that the BDNF gene variant produces personality problems. On the other hand, those participants who engaged in mind-body practices and had the BDNF gene variant were higher in extroversion and openness to experience than the control participants who also had the BDNF gene variant. These results are complex but indicate firstly that the genes are involved in the determination of personality characteristics and secondly that they modify the ability of mind-body practices to change personality. They also show that engagement in mind-body practices can, to some extent, help to correct personality problems resulting from the individual’s inheritance.

 

So, practice mindfulness and improve personality characteristics regardless of your genetic inheritance.

 

“All the benefits of meditation arise from experiencing our mind as more workable. We can focus and guide it better and we can also let it go. More dance, less straitjacket.” – Barry Boyce

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

Jung, Y.-H., Lee, U. S., Jang, J. H., & Kang, D.-H. (2016). Effects of Mind-Body Training on Personality and Behavioral Activation and Inhibition System According to BDNF Val66Met Polymorphism. Psychiatry Investigation, 13(3), 333–340. http://doi.org/10.4306/pi.2016.13.3.333

 

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: It has been known that mind-body training (MBT) can affect personality and behavior system as well as emotional well-being, but different effects of MBT on them has not been reported according to BDNF genetic polymorphism.

METHODS: Healthy subjects consisted of 64 subjects and the MBT group who practiced meditation regularly consisted of 72 practitioners. Participants completed neuroticism-extraversion-openness (NEO) Five-Factor Inventory and Behavioral Activation System/Behavioral Inhibition System (BAS/BIS) scales. All subjects were genotyped for the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism.

RESULTS: In the same genotypes of the BDNF Val/Val+Val/Met group, MBT group showed the increased Extraversion (p=0.033) and the increased Openness to Experience (p=0.004) compared to the control group. Also, in the same Met/Met carriers, MBT group exhibited the increase of Extraversion (p=0.008), the reduction of Neuroticism (p=0.002), and the increase of Openness to Experience (p=0.008) compared to the control group. In the same genotypes of the BDNF Val/Val+Val/Met group, MBT group showed the decreased BAS-Reward Responsiveness (p=0.016) and the decrease of BIS (p=0.004) compared to the control group. In the BDNF Met/Met group, MBT group increased BAS-Fun Seeking (p=0.045) and decreased BIS (p=0.013) compared to the control group.

CONCLUSION: MBT would differently contribute to NEO personality and BAS/BIS according to BDNF genetic polymorphism, compensating for different vulnerable traits based on each genotype.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4878969/