Improve Emotion Processing by the Brain with Meditation

Improve Emotion Processing by the Brain with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Alterations in key brain circuits associated with emotion regulation can be produced by mindfulness meditation.” – Richard Davidson

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that meditation practice has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. It has been shown to improve emotions and their regulation. Practitioners demonstrate more positive and less negative emotions and the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, while responding to them in appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. The ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation is thought to be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health and the treatment of mental illness especially depression and anxiety disorders.

 

One way that meditation practices may produce these benefits is by altering the brain. 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 areas. In other words, meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “Meditation-induced neuroplastic changes of the prefrontal network are associated with reduced valence perception in older people.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7058252/), Chau and colleagues recruited adults 60 years of age or greater who had no meditation or relaxation training. They were randomly assigned to receive an 8-week program of 22 sessions of 1.5 hours each of either attention-based compassion meditation training or relaxation training. The participants were instructed to also practice at home daily. Before and after training they were measured for emotional valence (the difference between the magnitudes of positive and negative emotions) and arousal (overall magnitude of emotional responses relative to neutral) with an Emotional Processing task involving emotional ratings of positive neutral and negative pictures. They were also measured for attention with a Stroop task. In addition, they received a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) brain scan.

 

They found that emotional valence and arousal significantly decreased after training for the meditation but not the relaxation group. This suggests that emotions were less extreme after meditation training. There were no significant differences with attention. The brain scans revealed that the meditation group had significant enlargements of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the inferior frontal sulcus, and the inferior frontal junction. Path analysis revealed the changes in the inferior frontal junction drove the changes in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the inferior frontal sulcus.

 

These results are interesting and demonstrate neuroplastic changes in the brains of the elderly produced by attention-based compassion meditation training but not relaxation training. These changes in the brains of the elderly are associated with decrease emotional reactivity. Indeed, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex has been shown to be involved in the inhibition of emotions. This suggests that the meditation training produced improved brain processing for the regulation of emotions in the elderly. Since the elderly often suffer from extremes of anxiety, depression, and loneliness, these meditation induced changes may improve the psychological health of the elderly.

 

So, improve emotion processing by the brain with meditation.

 

Meditation can help tame your emotions even if you’re not a mindful person.” – ScienceDaily

 

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

 

Chau, B., Keuper, K., Lo, M., So, K. F., Chan, C., & Lee, T. (2018). Meditation-induced neuroplastic changes of the prefrontal network are associated with reduced valence perception in older people. Brain and Neuroscience Advances, 2, 2398212818771822. https://doi.org/10.1177/2398212818771822

 

Abstract

Background:

Neuroplastic underpinnings of meditation-induced changes in affective processing are largely unclear.

Methods:

We included healthy older participants in an active-controlled experiment. They were involved a meditation training or a control relaxation training of eight weeks. Associations between behavioral and neural morphometric changes induced by the training were examined.

Results:

The meditation group demonstrated a change in valence perception indexed by more neutral valence ratings of positive and negative affective images. These behavioral changes were associated with synchronous structural enlargements in a prefrontal network involving the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the inferior frontal sulcus. In addition, these neuroplastic effects were modulated by the enlargement in the inferior frontal junction. In contrast, these prefrontal enlargements were absent in the active control group, which completed a relaxation training. Supported by a path analysis, we propose a model that describes how meditation may induce a series of prefrontal neuroplastic changes related to valence perception. These brain areas showing meditation-induced structural enlargements are reduced in older people with affective dysregulations.

Conclusion:

We demonstrated that a prefrontal network was enlarged after eight weeks of meditation training. Our findings yield translational insights in the endeavor to promote healthy aging by means of meditation.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7058252/

 

Improve Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder with Kundalini Yoga Meditation

Improve Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder with Kundalini Yoga Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness meditation had “a significant and large effect” on OCD symptoms, specifically on thought-action fusion (again, the belief that having a thought is the same as acting on the thought), and the ability to “let go” of unwanted thoughts.” – Jon Hershfield

 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) sufferer have repetitive anxiety producing intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that result in repetitive behaviors to reduce the anxiety (compulsions). In a typical example of OCD, the individual is concerned about germs and is unable to control the anxiety that these thoughts produce. Their solution is to engage in ritualized behaviors, such as repetitive cleaning or hand washing that for a short time relieves the anxiety. The obsessions and compulsions can become so frequent that they become a dominant theme in their lives. Hence OCD drastically reduces the quality of life and happiness of the sufferer and those around them. About 2% of the population, 3.3 million people in the U.S., are affected at some time in their life.

Fortunately, OCD can be treated and mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in treating OCD.

 

In today’s Research News article “Kundalini Yoga Meditation Versus the Relaxation Response Meditation for Treating Adults With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6859828/), Shannahoff-Khalsa and colleagues recruited healthy adults diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) who did not respond to first line therapies. They were randomly assigned to weekly 2-hour trainings for 4.5 months of either Kundalini Yoga meditation or relaxation response meditation. They were instructed to practice at home for an hour daily. Kundalini Yoga meditation is a combination of exercise, meditation, and breathing exercises. Relaxation response meditations employs various techniques to produce deep muscle relaxation. After the 4.5-month period, the groups were combined and all participants practiced Kundalini Yoga meditation for 7.5 months. The participants were measured before and after the 4.5-month training and at 1 year for OCD symptoms, OCD severity, anxiety, depression, mood states, and physical and mental health.

 

They found that in comparison to relaxation response meditation the participants who practiced Kundalini Yoga meditation had significantly greater reductions in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) symptoms and severity, anxiety, depression, and mood states. The improvements were continued over the 1-year practice period. In addition, the participants who practiced Kundalini Yoga meditation had significantly higher (31%) OCD remission rates.

 

The patients in this study had not previously responded to treatment with drugs, cognitive behavioral therapy, or exposure and response prevention therapy. The present results suggest that Kundalini Yoga meditation is a safe and effective treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in these patients who were unresponsive to other OCD therapies. Future studies are needed to compare Kundalini Yoga meditation to first line treatments for OCD.

 

So, improve Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder with Kundalini Yoga Meditation.

 

Mindfulness is a useful technique for decreasing anxiety because of its emphasis on accepting your thoughts. When an intrusive thought pops up, you let it exist in your mind without providing it any weight. You experience the thought, but don’t judge it, change it or try to make it go away. You wait until it passes instead of thinking it should or shouldn’t be there.” – IntrusiveThoughts.org

 

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

 

Shannahoff-Khalsa, D., Fernandes, R. Y., Pereira, C., March, J. S., Leckman, J. F., Golshan, S., … Shavitt, R. G. (2019). Kundalini Yoga Meditation Versus the Relaxation Response Meditation for Treating Adults With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Frontiers in psychiatry, 10, 793. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00793

 

Abstract

Background: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is often a life-long disorder with high psychosocial impairment. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) are the only FDA approved drugs, and approximately 50% of patients are non-responders when using a criterion of 25% to 35% improvement with the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS). About 30% are non-responders to combined first-line therapies (SRIs and exposure and response prevention). Previous research (one open, one randomized clinical trial) has demonstrated that Kundalini Yoga (KY) meditation can lead to an improvement in symptoms of obsessive-compulsive severity. We expand here with a larger trial.

Design: This trial compared two parallel run groups [KY vs. Relaxation Response meditation (RR)]. Patients were randomly allocated based on gender and Y-BOCS scores. They were told two different (unnamed) types of meditation would be compared, and informed if one showed greater benefits, the groups would merge for 12 months using the more effective intervention. Raters were blind in Phase One (0–4.5 months) to patient assignments, but not in Phase Two.

Main Outcome Measures: Primary outcome variable, clinician-administered Y-BOCS. Secondary scales: Dimensional Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (clinician-administered), Profile of Mood Scales, Beck Anxiety Inventory, Beck Depression Inventory, Clinical Global Impression, Short Form 36 Health Survey.

Results: Phase One: Baseline Y-BOCS scores: KY mean = 26.46 (SD 5.124; N = 24), RR mean = 26.79 (SD = 4.578; N = 24). An intent-to-treat analysis with the last observation carried forward for dropouts showed statistically greater improvement with KY compared to RR on the Y-BOCS, and statistically greater improvement on five of six secondary measures. For completers, the Y-BOCS showed 40.4% improvement for KY (N = 16), 17.9% for RR (N = 11); 31.3% in KY were judged to be in remission compared to 9.1% in RR. KY completers showed greater improvement on five of six secondary measures. At the end of Phase Two (12 months), patients, drawn from the initial groups, who elected to receive KY continued to show improvement in their Y-BOCS scores.

Conclusion: KY shows promise as an add-on option for OCD patients unresponsive to first line therapies. Future studies will establish KY’s relative efficacy compared to Exposure and Response Prevention and/or medications, and the most effective treatment schedule.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6859828/

 

Improve the Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy with Mindfulness

Improve the Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Daily mindfulness practice can be helpful for people living with chronic pain because sometimes there are negative or worrisome thoughts about the pain. These thoughts are normal, and can affect mood and increase pain. Being able to focus on relaxing the body, noticing the breath and body sensations as being there just as they are, can help manage pain, as well as reduce depression and anxiety symptoms.” – Mayo Clinic

 

Diabetes can lead to a very painful condition known as diabetic neuropathy. The high blood glucose levels associated with diabetes can damage nerves and result in a burning pain and numbness, particularly from the legs and feet. It affects the majority of long-term diabetes patients. This is not only painful but is also disruptive to the normal life functions of these patients. There are no cures, but diabetic neuropathy can be prevented by blood glucose control in the diabetic patient with a rigorous program of measured diet and exercise. Treatment for diabetic neuropathy usually involves pain management with drugs.

 

Mindfulness practices have been shown to help with pain management and with quality of life in diabetes patients. and has been shown to improve the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. It is important, then, to continue studying the effectiveness of mindfulness practices for reducing pain and improving quality of life in patients with diabetic neuropathy.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Meditation Versus Progressive Relaxation Meditation: Impact on Chronic Pain in Older Female Patients With Diabetic Neuropathy.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6757487/), Hussain and Said recruited elderly females with diabetes. They were randomly assigned to one of three condition, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), progressive muscle relaxation training, or a control condition consisting of 15 minutes of discussion and 20 minutes of quiet sitting. Treatment occurred twice a week for 8 weeks. MBCT consists of mindfulness training and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). During therapy the patient is trained to investigate and alter aberrant thought patterns underlying their reactions to their neuropathy. The participants were measured before and after training for pain, analgesia, impression of change in their condition, and patient satisfaction.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the control group both the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and progressive muscle relaxation groups had significant reductions in daily pain intensity and significant enhanced impression of change in their condition. In addition, the MBCT group had significant improvement in their satisfaction with treatment.

 

These results suggest that both Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and progressive muscle relaxation improve the daily pain of elderly female diabetic neuropathy patients and their perception of improvement in their condition. MBCT  would appear to be somewhat superior to progressive relaxation in improving the condition. This is important as these patients suffer greatly and the pain interferes with their ability to conduct their lives. The pain relief is most welcome.

 

So, improve the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy with mindfulness.

 

in addition to improving pain, mindfulness also addresses the psychological consequences of chronic pain, including depression symptoms.” -0 Shanna Patterson

 

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

 

Hussain, N., & Said, A. (2019). Mindfulness-Based Meditation Versus Progressive Relaxation Meditation: Impact on Chronic Pain in Older Female Patients With Diabetic Neuropathy. Journal of evidence-based integrative medicine, 24, 2515690X19876599. doi:10.1177/2515690X19876599

 

Abstract

Chronic pain, the most common complication of diabetes, is treated with medication often to no avail. Our study aimed to compare the use of mindfulness meditation and progressive relaxation to reduce chronic pain in older females with diabetes. Methods The 105 study participants were divided randomly into 3 groups: Group MM (mindfulness meditation), Group CM (control meditation), and Group PM (progressive relaxation meditation). Assessment of analgesic effectiveness required changes in average daily pain Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) modified for painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy and Patient Global Impression of Change using descriptive statistics, Student’s t test, and analysis of variance where applicable. Results Both Groups MM and PM experienced significant (P < .05) reduction in average daily pain in last 24 hours at study end compared to baseline (28.7% and 39.7%, respectively). Group MM had more significant (P < .01) reduction of pain compared to control, a score of 5.2 ± 1.2 dropped to 3.0 ± 1.1 by week 12 of treatment. Groups MM and PM showed significant improvement in patients’ impression at study end, 75 ± 5.1% (n = 36) and 61 ± 6.5% (n = 32), respectively. In Group MM, patient satisfaction scores increased significantly (P < .05) to 3.8 ± 1.9 by week 12. Conclusion Integrative therapies such as mindfulness meditation can be part of a comprehensive pain management plan. Benefits include reduction of pain-related medication consumption, better treatment outcomes, improvement in comorbid conditions such as anxiety and depression as well as no risk of addiction or abuse.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6757487/

 

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/

 

Improve Caregiver Psychological Health by Changing the Brain Response with Mindfulness

Improve Caregiver Psychological Health by Changing the Brain Response with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“We are set up for short-term stress, but caregiving is long-term stress. Mindfulness is basically coming back into the present moment, so it works to inhibit the stress response. Most of us run around listening to our thoughts, and this is particularly true of caregivers, who are driven by the to-do list. They are never at rest.” – Joan Griffiths Vega

 

Dementia is a progressive loss of mental function produced by degenerative diseases of the brain. Dementia patients require caregiving particularly in the later stages of the disease. Caregiving for dementia patients is a daunting intense experience that can go on for four to eight years with increasing responsibilities as the loved one deteriorates. This places tremendous psychological and financial stress on the caregiver. Hence, there is a need to both care for the dementia patients and also for the caregivers. Mindfulness practice for caregivers has been shown to help them cope with the physical and psychological demands of caregiving. In addition, mindfulness training has been found to help protect aging individuals from physical and cognitive declines.

 

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.

 

In today’s Research News article “Grief, Mindfulness and Neural Predictors of Improvement in Family Dementia Caregivers.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6530345/), Jain and colleagues recruited dementia caregivers (91% female) and provided for them either 4 weeks of mindfulness training or 4 weeks of relaxation training. Training occurred in a once a week meeting along with home practice. The participants were measured before and after training for grief, depression, and mindfulness. They then had brain scans performed with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) while they viewed pictures of their loved one with dementia or a stranger with the pictures labelled with either grief related words, e.g. disease, dementia, and sick or with neutral words e.g. village, planter and curve.

 

They found that at baseline grief and depression levels were high and strongly related. They also found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of grief and depression. After mindfulness training there were reductions in grief and depression and increases in mindfulness. These findings are similar to previous research of improvements in the mental health of caregivers after mindfulness training.

 

Interestingly, in comparison to pictures of strangers, when showed pictures of their loved ones with dementia the caregivers showed increases in brain activation in the dorsal anterior cingulate gyrus and precuneus. Viewing grief related words results in increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex. The greater the decreases in grief following training the greater the activation of the medial prefrontal cortex and precuneus.

 

The structures showing activation to the caregiver’s loved one all are components of what is called the default mode network which is involved in self-referential thinking and thinking about others. It would appear that the mindfulness training resulted in greater thinking about the dementia patient and the self when viewing a picture of the patient. This may be reflective of heightened compassion for the self and the patient. This in turn, may produce improvements in the caregivers mental health.

 

So, improve caregiver psychological health by changing the brain response with mindfulness.

 

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

 

“By focusing on the fact that families and communities are producers of health and health care, not just clients or consumers, it empowers families and communities to co-create health interventions,” – Alicia Bazzano

 

Study Summary

 

Jain, F. A., Connolly, C. G., Moore, L. C., Leuchter, A. F., Abrams, M., Ben-Yelles, R. W., … Iacoboni, M. (2019). Grief, Mindfulness and Neural Predictors of Improvement in Family Dementia Caregivers. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 13, 155. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2019.00155

 

Abstract

Background: Family dementia caregivers often suffer from an immense toll of grief while caring for their loved ones. We sought to identify the clinical relationship between grief, depression and mindfulness and identify neural predictors of symptomatology and improvement.

Methods: Twenty three family dementia caregivers were assessed at baseline for grief, mindfulness and depression, of which 17 underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). During fMRI, caregivers were shown faces of either their dementia-stricken relative or that of a stranger, paired with grief-related or neutral words. In nine subjects, post fMRI scans were also obtained after 4 weeks of either guided imagery or relaxation. Robust regression was used to predict changes in symptoms with longitudinal brain activation (BA) changes as the dependent variable.

Results: Grief and depression symptoms were correlated (r = 0.50, p = 0.01), and both were negatively correlated with mindfulness (r = −0.70, p = 0.0002; r = −0.52, p = 0.01). Relative to viewing strangers, caregivers showed pictures of their loved ones (picture factor) exhibited increased activation in the dorsal anterior cingulate gyrus and precuneus. Improvement in grief but not mindfulness or depression was predicted by increased relative BA in the precuneus and anterior cingulate (different subregions from baseline). Viewing grief-related vs. neutral words elicited activity in the medial prefrontal cortex and precuneus.

Conclusions: Caregiver grief, depression and mindfulness are interrelated but have at least partially nonoverlapping neural mechanisms. Picture and word stimuli related to caregiver grief evoked brain activity in regions previously identified with bereavement grief. These activation foci might be useful as biomarkers of treatment response.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6530345/

Relaxation and Mindfulness Training Have Differing Psychological and Neural Effects

Relaxation and Mindfulness Training Have Differing Psychological and Neural Effects

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“this practice of nonjudgmental self-awareness is one of the most effective ways to improve mood and anxiety.” – Neda Gould

 

Mindfulness 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, mindfulness training has been called the third wave of therapies. One problem with understanding mindfulness training effects is that there are, a wide variety of mindfulness techniques and it is not known which work best for improving different conditions.

 

There are a number of different types of meditation. Many can be 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, learns to filter out distracting stimuli, including thoughts, and learns to stay focused on the present moment, filtering out thoughts centered around the past or future. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced regardless of its origin. These include bodily sensations, external stimuli, and even thoughts.

 

These techniques have common properties of restful attention on the present moment, but there are large differences. These differences are likely to produce different effects on the practitioner. One way to distinguish between the effects of these different meditation techniques is to observe the effects of each technique on the brain.  In today’s Research News article “Common and Dissociable Neural Activity After Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Relaxation Response Programs.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5976535/ ), Sevinc and colleagues recruited adults and randomly assigned them to receive 8 weekly 2-hour group sessions with 20 minutes of daily home practice with guided recordings of either a Relaxation Response program or a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.

 

In the Relaxation Response program, the participants practiced a body scan with emphasis on relaxation and focused meditation on the breath in a 20-minute session. In the MBSR program the participants practiced body scan with focus on awareness of the sensations from the body for 2 weeks, yoga for 2 weeks, and open monitoring meditation for 2 weeks. The last 2 weeks the participants could chose whichever of the practices they wanted to perform. They were measured before and after training for perceived stress, mindfulness, self-compassion, rumination, and life stressors. They also underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) while they listened to a guided recording for the body scan from their home practices.

 

They found that both practices equivalently reduced perceived stress and increased mindfulness. But the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program also significantly increased self-compassion and decreased rumination. Interestingly, although both practices produced increases functional connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and motor cortex, the two practices also produced different connectivities. When the body scan was practiced with emphasis on relaxation there was increased functional connectivity was with the right inferior frontal gyrus. This is an area that’s involved in behavioral inhibition. On the other hand, when the body scan was practiced with emphasis on awareness of sensations there was increased functional connectivity between the Insula and Cingulate Cortex, areas associated with sensory awareness.

 

Hence, although both practices were beneficial, the MBSR program appears to create better psychological well-being. In addition, the body scan technique used in the MBSR program, emphasizing sensory awareness, appears to increase the connectivity between brain areas that are involved in sensory awareness. On the other hand, a relaxation instruction with the body scan appears to produce increased brain systems devoted to restraining responses. Different mindfulness techniques produced different psychological and neural outcomes. Both appear to improve stress responding and mindfulness, but the MBSR program also produces better compassion for the self and less repetitive negative thinking, rumination.

 

So, there may be a place for the relaxation response program, but with these otherwise healthy adults, the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program appears to produce superior results.

 

 “If you have unproductive worries,” you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently. “You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,’” – Elizabeth Hoge

 

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

 

Sevinc, G., Hölzel, B. K., Hashmi, J., Greenberg, J., McCallister, A., Treadway, M., … Lazar, S. W. (2018). Common and Dissociable Neural Activity After Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Relaxation Response Programs. Psychosomatic Medicine, 80(5), 439–451. http://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0000000000000590

 

ABSTRACT

Objective

We investigated common and dissociable neural and psychological correlates of two widely used meditation-based stress reduction programs.

Methods

Participants were randomized to the Relaxation Response (RR; n = 18; 56% female) or the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR; n = 16; 56% female) programs. Both programs use a “bodyscan” meditation; however, the RR program explicitly emphasizes physical relaxation during this practice, whereas the MBSR program emphasizes mindful awareness with no explicit relaxation instructions. After the programs, neural activity during the respective meditation was investigated using functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Results

Both programs were associated with reduced stress (for RR, from 14.1 ± 6.6 to 11.3 ± 5.5 [Cohen’s d = 0.50; for MBSR, from 17.7 ± 5.7 to 11.9 ± 5.0 [Cohen’s d = 1.02]). Conjunction analyses revealed functional coupling between ventromedial prefrontal regions and supplementary motor areas (p < .001). The disjunction analysis indicated that the RR bodyscan was associated with stronger functional connectivity of the right inferior frontal gyrus—an important hub of intentional inhibition and control—with supplementary motor areas (p < .001, family-wise error [FWE] rate corrected). The MBSR program was uniquely associated with improvements in self-compassion and rumination, and the within-group analysis of MBSR bodyscan revealed significant functional connectivity of the right anterior insula—an important hub of sensory awareness and salience—with pregenual anterior cingulate during bodyscan meditation compared with rest (p = .03, FWE corrected).

Conclusions

The bodyscan exercises in each program were associated with both overlapping and differential functional coupling patterns, which were consistent with each program’s theoretical foundation. These results may have implications for the differential effects of these programs for the treatment of diverse conditions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5976535/