Virtual Mindfulness Training Improves Well-Being

Virtual Mindfulness Training Improves Well-Being

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Spending too much time planning, problem solving, daydreaming, or thinking negative or random thoughts can be draining. It also can make you more likely to experience stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression. Practicing mindfulness exercises, on the other hand, can help you direct your attention away from this kind of thinking and engage with the world around you.” – Mayo Clinic

 

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. But the vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques require a trained teacher. The participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with their schedules and at locations that may not be convenient.

 

As an alternative, training over the internet has been developed. This has tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations. But the question arises as to the effectiveness of internet training in improving psychological well-being. The evidence is accumulating. So, it makes sense to review what has been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “Virtual mindfulness interventions to promote well-being in adults: A mixed-methods systematic review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8765070/ ) Xu and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies on the effectiveness of mindfulness training over the internet to improve psychological well-being. They identified 32 published studies.

 

They report that the published studies found that internet-based mindfulness training produced significant improvements in well-being and mental health including reductions in anxiety and depression, perceived stress, sleep disruptions, and negative emotions and significant increases in academic performance and cognition, including reduced mind-wandering.

 

The published research indicates that on-line mindfulness training improves the well-being, mental health, and cognitive performance of students.

 

Even though the app we evaluate is vastly less expensive than in-person psychotherapy, it leads to comparable short-run improvements in mental health.” – Advik Shreekumar

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Xu, J., Jo, H., Noorbhai, L., Patel, A., & Li, A. (2022). Virtual mindfulness interventions to promote well-being in adults: A mixed-methods systematic review. Journal of affective disorders, 300, 571–585. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2022.01.027

 

Abstract

Background

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many have experienced drastic changes in their academic and social lives with ensuing consequences towards their physical and mental well-being. The purpose of this systematic review is to identify virtual mindfulness-based interventions for the well-being of adults aged 19 to 40 years in developed countries and examine the efficacy of these techniques/exercises.

Methods

This mixed-methods systematic review follows the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines with a registered PROSPERO protocol. With a convergent integrated synthesis approach, IEEE Xplore, PsychInfo, Web of Science and OVID were searched with a predetermined criteria and search strategy employing booleans and filters for peer-reviewed and gray literature. Data screening and extraction were independently performed by two authors, with a third author settling disagreements after reconciliation. Study quality of selected articles was assessed with two independent authors using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool (MMAT). Studies were analyzed qualitatively (precluding meta and statistical analysis) due to the heterogeneous study results from diverse study designs in present literature.

Results

Common mindfulness-based interventions used in the appraised studies included practicing basic mindfulness, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy programs (MBCT) and the Learning 2 BREATHE (L2B) program.

Conclusion

Studies implementing mindfulness interventions demonstrated an overall improvement in well-being. Modified versions of these interventions can be implemented in a virtual context, so adults can improve their well-being through an accessible format.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8765070/

 

Improve Cognition at Work with Mindfulness

Improve Cognition at Work with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness has a variety of benefits — many of which can positively impact an individual’s job performance.” –  Headspace

 

Work is very important for our health and well-being. We spend approximately 25% of our adult lives at work. Indeed, the work environment has even become an important part of our social lives, with friendships and leisure time activities often attached to the people we work with. But work-related stress is epidemic in the western workplace. Almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. This stress can result in impaired health and can result in burnout; producing fatigue, cynicism, and professional inefficacy. To help overcome unhappiness, stress, and burnoutmindfulness practices have been implemented in the workplace.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and music interventions in the workplace: assessment of sustained attention and working memory using a crowdsourcing approach.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9044827/ ) Axelsen and colleagues recruited adult workers online and randomly assigned them to a wait-list control condition, or to receive 10 minutes daily for 30 days of mindfulness training with the “Headspace” smartphone app, or to listen to music with a smartphone app.  Before and after the interventions the participants completed a measure of perceived stress and also engaged in playing cognitive games on their smartphones which were designed to measure sustained attention and working memory.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group, both the mindfulness and music groups had significant reductions in perceived stress. Only the mindfulness group had significant increases in sustained attention and working memory. Hence, feelings of being stressed can be reduced by either mindfulness or listening to music. But mindfulness training also improves cognitive performance in workers. It is assumed but not measured that increased sustained attention in particular would produce improvements in work performance.

 

So, mindfulness training on smartphones can improve workers memory and attention.

 

Meditating at work can reduce stress and frustration, while also boosting focus, compassion, energy, and productivity.” – Headspace

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Axelsen, J. L., Meline, J., Staiano, W., & Kirk, U. (2022). Mindfulness and music interventions in the workplace: assessment of sustained attention and working memory using a crowdsourcing approach. BMC psychology, 10(1), 108. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-022-00810-y

 

Abstract

Background

Occupational stress has huge financial as well as human costs. Application of crowdsourcing might be a way to strengthen the investigation of occupational mental health. Therefore, the aim of the study was to assess Danish employees’ stress and cognition by relying on a crowdsourcing approach, as well as investigating the effect of a 30-day mindfulness and music intervention.

Methods

We translated well-validated neuropsychological laboratory- and task-based paradigms into an app-based platform using cognitive games measuring sustained attention and working memory and measuring stress via. Cohen’s Perceived Stress Scale. A total of 623 healthy volunteers from Danish companies participated in the study and were randomized into three groups, which consisted of a 30-day intervention of either mindfulness or music, or a non-intervention control group.

Results

Participants in the mindfulness group showed a significant improvement in the coefficient of sustained attention, working memory capacity and perceived stress (p < .001). The music group showed a 38% decrease of self-perceived stress. The control group showed no difference from pre to post in the survey or cognitive outcome measures. Furthermore, there was a significant correlation between usage of the mindfulness and music app and elevated score on both the cognitive games and the perceived stress scale.

Conclusion

The study supports the nascent field of crowdsourcing by being able to replicate data collected in previous well-controlled laboratory studies from a range of experimental cognitive tasks, making it an effective alternative. It also supports mindfulness as an effective intervention in improving mental health in the workplace.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9044827/

Improve Worker Psychological Well-Being with Mindfulness

Improve Worker Psychological Well-Being with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindful working means applying focus and awareness to everything you do from the moment you enter the office. Focus on the task at hand and recognize and release internal and external distractions as they arise. In this way, mindfulness helps increase effectiveness, decrease mistakes, and even enhance creativity.” – Rasmus Hougaard

 

Work is very important for our health and well-being. We spend approximately 25% of our adult lives at work. Indeed, the work environment has even become an important part of our social lives, with friendships and leisure time activities often attached to the people we work with. But work-related stress is epidemic in the western workplace. Almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. This stress can result in impaired health and can result in burnout; producing fatigue, cynicism, and professional inefficacy. To help overcome unhappiness, stress, and burnoutmindfulness practices have been implemented in the workplace. These mindfulness practices have been shown to markedly reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress.

 

In today’s Research News article “Calm Down and Enjoy It: Influence of Leader-Employee Mindfulness on Flow Experience.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9005140/ ) Feng recruited workers and leaders from Chinese companies and had them complete measures of mindfulness, rumination, problem solving pondering and flow.

 

They found that the higher the levels of both worker and leader mindfulness the lower the levels of rumination and the higher the levels of and flow. The higher the levels of flow the lower the levels of rumination and the higher the levels of problem-solving pondering problem-solving pondering. The higher the levels of leader mindfulness the stronger the relationship of worker mindfulness and rumination.

 

Flow refers to a state of mind that is characterized by a complete absorption with the task at hand, often resulting in enhanced performance. It appears that this experience in the workplace is positively associated with mindfulness of both the worker and the leader, with problem-solving pondering, and negatively with rumination. These results are correlative and future research should manipulate the variables to establish causation.

 

Mindfulness appears to be associated with greater psychological well-being at work.

 

One way mindfulness can help is simply by allowing us to improve our focus. When we constantly flit from one task to another, the quality of our work can suffer. By practicing mindfulness — simply coming back to the present moment over and over again — we can train ourselves to become more focused.” – David Gelles

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Feng X. (2022). Calm Down and Enjoy It: Influence of Leader-Employee Mindfulness on Flow Experience. Psychology research and behavior management, 15, 839–854. https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S360880

 

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to investigate the effect of mindfulness on flow at the organizational and individual levels. Based on perseverative cognition theory, we introduced work-related rumination (affective rumination and problem-solving pondering) as the transmitter in these processes.

Methods

This study conducted a three-wave longitudinal survey. The data of 458 employees and 114 leaders were collected from three software parks in China. Multilevel structural equation modeling and the Markov Chain Monte Carlo method were adopted to test all hypotheses.

Results

Employee mindfulness and leader mindfulness help reduce affective rumination by employees and increase their problem-solving pondering and flow experiences. Affective rumination and problem-solving pondering partially mediate the relationship between leader and employee mindfulness and flow. Leader mindfulness moderates the effects of employees’ mindfulness on their affective rumination and problem-solving pondering.

Conclusion

Our findings contribute to the current literature on mindfulness, work-related rumination and flow experience and extend the understanding of the effect boundary of mindfulness. This study also helps guide organizations to better design and carry out mindfulness and flow interventions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9005140/

 

Meditation Improves Word Recognition

Meditation Improves Word Recognition

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Meditative practice changes a perception of emotional coloring of written speech.” – Alexander Savostyanov

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and also improves cognition. In today’s Research News article “Meditation affects word recognition of meditation novices.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8942899/ ) Lusnig and colleagues recruited online healthy college students and randomly assigned them to receive 8 weeks of 1.5 hour weekly practice of mindfulness meditation, loving kindness meditation, or silent study for a class. The participant groups did not differ in mood states, personality, sustained attention, or intelligence. Before and after training they also performed a lexical decision task on a computer where they had to decide as quickly as possible whether a set of letters presented was a word or not and rated their feelings toward the word.

 

They found that after either meditation but not the control condition the participants found the words to be more neutral while after loving kindness meditation the participants found the positive words as more positive than prior the intervention. They also found that after either meditation but not the control condition the participants responded faster in detection words or non-words (lexical )decision) while loving kindness meditation participants had the fastest overall responses. These results suggest that meditation reduces emotional responses to words and improves word recognition.

 

These results suggest that meditation can help people think better. This may well be because meditation improves attention and reduces mind wandering and improves the regulation of emotions. Thus, meditation improves thinking (cognition) by making people calmer and more attentive.

 

By training my mind to concentrate solely on what I am reading . . . I am better able to not only more fully enjoy the experience of reading again, but to really delve into what a book is saying, and making connections to other things I have read or knowledge I already possess.” – Kerri Jarema

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Lusnig, L., Radach, R., & Hofmann, M. J. (2022). Meditation affects word recognition of meditation novices. Psychological research, 86(3), 723–736. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-021-01522-5

 

Abstract

This work represents one of the first attempts to examine the effects of meditation on the processing of written single words. In the present longitudinal study, participants conducted a lexical decision task and rated the affective valence of nouns before and after a 7-week class in mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation, or a control intervention. Both meditation groups rated the emotional valence of nouns more neutral after the interventions, suggesting a general down-regulation of emotions. In the loving-kindness group, positive words were rated more positively after the intervention, suggesting a specific intensification of positive feelings. After both meditation interventions, response times in the lexical decision task accelerated significantly, with the largest facilitation occurring in the loving-kindness group. We assume that meditation might have led to increased attention, better visual discrimination, a broadened attentional focus, and reduced mind-wandering, which in turn enabled accelerated word recognition. These results extend findings from a previous study with expert Zen meditators, in which we found that one session of advanced meditation can affect word recognition in a very similar way.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8942899/

 

Improve Education Students Psychological Well-Being with Mindfulness

Improve Education Students Psychological Well-Being with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindfulness practices help anchor the mind, creating space to become aware of our thoughts and feelings, and keeps us in the present moment, all of which helps reduce stress and anxiety and boosts levels of attention and concentration.” – Rebecca Enderby 

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. There is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. The pressure can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression which can impede the student’s mental health, well-being, and school performance. But it is, for the most part, beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress, so it is important that methods be found to reduce the college students’ responses to stress; to make them more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices including meditationmindfulness training, exercise, Tai Chi and Qigong, and yoga practice have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stressrelieve anxiety, and reduce depression 

 

In today’s Research News article “The Effects of a Mindfulness Program on Mental Health in Students at an Undergraduate Program for Teacher Education: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Real-Life.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.722771/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1790561_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20211214_arts_A ) Juul and colleagues recruited teacher education college students and randomly assigned them to a wait-list control condition or to receive 8 weekly 2.5 hour sessions of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. The program consists of training in meditation, body scan, and yoga, group discussion, and daily home practice. They were measured before and after training and 3 months later for perceived stress, anxiety, depression, well-being, resilience, mindfulness, and resting state cognitive activity.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group, the group that received Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) had significantly higher well-being and significantly lower levels of perceived stress, anxiety, depression, and resting state cognitive activity of distracting thoughts, thoughts of self and comfort. In addition, they found that the effect of MBSR on perceived stress was in part mediated by resting state cognitive activity of distracting thoughts and comfort and by thoughts of self on anxiety and depression. These effects were still present at the 3-month follow-up measurement.

 

The study demonstrates that mindfulness training improves the mental health of stresses teacher education college students. It has been routinely shown in previous research with a variety of groups that mindfulness training produces reduced levels of perceived stress, anxiety, and depression and increased levels of well-being. The new finding is that these improvements in mental health produced by the mindfulness training appear to be in part mediated by changes in the students’ resting state cognitive activity. In other words, the training appears to alter the mental contents of the students which in turn improves their mental health. The mindfulness trained students appear to have fewer distracting thoughts, thoughts of self and comfort and these reductions appear to improve their psychological well-being.

 

So, improve education students psychological well-being with mindfulness.

 

It’s no secret that college can quickly become a major stressor for many students. Balancing multiple classes on top of work, a social life, and a million other things is a lot to take on at once. Don’t let yourself become too overwhelmed with everything. Instead, try . . . mindfulness.” – Savannah Byers

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Juul L, Brorsen E, Gøtzsche K, Nielsen BL and Fjorback LO (2021) The Effects of a Mindfulness Program on Mental Health in Students at an Undergraduate Program for Teacher Education: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Real-Life. Front. Psychol. 12:722771. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.722771

 

Background: In this study, we aimed to investigate the effects of a mindfulness program including Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on the mental health of student teachers when offered at their educational institution in a real-life context.

Methods: A parallel randomized controlled trial (RCT) was conducted among self-selected student teachers at a Danish undergraduate program for teacher education in the autumns of 2019 and 2020. Participation was not recommended in case of (1) clinical depression or a diagnosis of psychosis or schizophrenia, (2) abuse of alcohol, drugs, and/or medicine. Randomization was performed by a Statistician who was blinded to the identity of the students. Data was collected using self-reported questionnaires. The primary outcome was a change in perceived stress 3 months from baseline. Secondary outcome measures were symptoms of anxiety and depression, well-being, resilience, mindfulness, and thoughts and feelings during rest. The effects were analyzed according to the intention-to-treat principle using mixed-effect linear regression models. Mediating effects of mindfulness skills on the mental health outcomes were explored using structural equation modeling.

Results: The study group included 67 student teachers with 34 allocated to the intervention group (median age: 25 years; women: n = 24, 71%); and 33 students (median age: 25 years; women: n = 25, 76%) allocated to a waiting list control group. At baseline, mean Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) scores were 18.88 (SD: 5.75) in the intervention group and 17.91 (SD: 6.36) in the waiting list control group. A total of 56 students completed the questionnaire at a 3-month follow-up (28 in both the intervention- and the control group). Statistically significant effects of the intervention were found on perceived stress, symptoms of anxiety and depression, well-being, and on three of seven resting-state dimensions. No effects were found on resilience or mindfulness. Statistically significant mediated effects via resting-state dimensions were found.

Conclusion The findings suggested that offering a mindfulness program at an undergraduate program for teacher education could significantly improve the mental health among self-selected students within 3 months. Results of mediation analysis supported the hypothesis that some of the effects might be explained by reduced distracting thoughts.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.722771/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1790561_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20211214_arts_A

 

Improve Cognitive and Socio-Emotional Skills in Children with Mindfulness

Improve Cognitive and Socio-Emotional Skills in Children with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Teaching mindfulness to kids can also help shape three critical skills developed in early childhood: paying attention and remembering information, shifting back and forth between tasks, and behaving appropriately with others.” – Christopher Willard

 

Childhood is a miraculous period during which the child is dynamically absorbing information from every aspect of its environment. This is particularly evident during the elementary school years. Mindfulness training in school has been shown to have very positive effects. These include improvements in the cognitive, psychological, emotional and social domains. Importantly, mindfulness training in school appears to improve attentional ability which is fundamental to success in all aspects of academic performance. The research evidence has been accumulating. So, there is a need to summarize what has been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “Exploring the Effects of Meditation Techniques Used by Mindfulness-Based Programs on the Cognitive, Social-Emotional, and Academic Skills of Children: A Systematic Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.660650/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1778822_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20211123_arts_A ) Filipe and colleagues review and summarize the published controlled research studies on the effects of mindfulness training on 6-12 year old children. They found 29 published research articles.

 

They report that the published research found that mindfulness training produced significant improvements in the children’s cognitive skills, including overall executive functions, attention, concentration, inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility, and immediate auditory-verbal memory. They also found that there were significant improvements in socio-emotional skills, including stress, wellbeing, mindfulness, self-esteem, resilience, psychological happiness, empathy, perspective-taking, emotional control, optimism, depression, internalizing problems, peer aggression, prosocial behavior, peer acceptance, anxiety, self-control, self-regulation, mental health problems, quality of life, self-compassion, acceptance, relaxation, happiness, aggressive behaviors, and social competence. But only one of the 29 studies reported improvements in academic skills.

 

The published research makes a strong case for the effectiveness of mindfulness training to improve the cognitive and socio-emotional skills on children. But there is little evidence for improvement in academic performance. Unfortunately, only 9 of the 29 studies employed strong research designs (randomized controlled trails). So, there is a need for further research with high quality research designs. Nevertheless, the consistency and magnitude of the findings suggest robust positive effects of mindfulness trainings on a myriad of cognitive, social, and emotional skills in children. These are important benefits for these developing humans that may have important contributions to their growth and well-being, perhaps eventually making them better adults. As such, mindfulness training should be incorporated into the school curriculum.

 

So, improve cognitive and socio-emotional skills in children with mindfulness.

 

For children, mindfulness can offer relief from whatever difficulties they might be encountering in life. It also gives them the beauty of being in the present moment.” – Annaka Harris

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Filipe MG, Magalhães S, Veloso AS, Costa AF, Ribeiro L, Araújo P, Castro SL and Limpo T (2021) Exploring the Effects of Meditation Techniques Used by Mindfulness-Based Programs on the Cognitive, Social-Emotional, and Academic Skills of Children: A Systematic Review. Front. Psychol. 12:660650. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.660650

 

There is evidence for the positive impact of mindfulness in children. However, little is known about the techniques through which mindfulness practice results in differential outcomes. Therefore, this study intended to systematically review the available evidence about the efficacy of meditation techniques used by mindfulness-based programs on cognitive, socio-emotional, and academic skills of children from 6 to 12 years of age. The review was registered on the PROSPERO database, and the literature search was conducted according to PICO criteria and PRISMA guidelines. The EBSCO databases were searched, and 29 studies were eligible: nine randomized controlled trials and 20 quasi-experimental studies. All the included randomized controlled trials were rated as having a high risk of bias. Overall, the evidence for mindfulness techniques improving cognitive and socio-emotional skills was reasonably strong. Specifically, for cognitive skills, results showed that all the interventions used “body-centered meditations” and “mindful observations.” Regarding socio-emotional skills, although all the studies applied “body-centered meditations” and “mindful observations,” “affect-centered meditations” were also frequent. For academic skills, just one quasi-experimental trial found improvements, thus making it difficult to draw conclusions. Further research is crucial to evaluate the unique effects of different meditation techniques on the cognitive, social-emotional, and academic skills of children.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.660650/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1778822_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20211123_arts_A

Mindfulness Improves Cognitive Function in Older Adults by Altering Brain Gene Expression

Mindfulness Improves Cognitive Function in Older Adults by Altering Brain Gene Expression

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

mindfulness may target inflammation, stress-related pathways, and neuroplasticity, thus reducing the risk of developing cerebrovascular disease and age-related neurodegeneration that could lead to the development of dementia.” – Ted Kheng Siang Ng

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. The elderly frequently have problems with attention, thinking, and memory abilities, known as mild cognitive impairment. An encouraging new development is that mindfulness practices such as meditation training and mindful movement practices can significantly reduce these declines in cognitive ability. In addition, it has been 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 have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners. The mechanisms by which mindfulness affects the brain and reduces cognitive decline need to be investigated.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness intervention improves cognitive function in older adults by enhancing the level of miRNA-29c in neuron-derived extracellular vesicles.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8575875/ ) Hashizume and colleagues recruited healthy elderly adults aged 65 and over and administered either 4 weeks , 3 times per week for 60 minutes of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or a no-treatment wait-list condition. They were measured before and after treatment for cognitive function including delayed recall, visuospatial/executive function, attention, abstraction, language, naming, and orientation tasks. They also had blood drawn and assayed for extracellular vesicles and mRNA in the vesicles.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait list control, after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) there were significant improvement in cognitive function including delayed recall, visuospatial/executive function, attention, naming, and orientation tasks. The blood assays revealed that in comparison to baseline and the wait list control, after MBSR there were significant reductions in miR-29c in the extracellular vesicles and decreased expression of the genes DNMT3A, DNMT3B, and BACE1 in in the extracellular vesicles. In another study with mice they found that injection into the brain ventricles of miR-29c prevented cognitive decline in the animals.

 

The results suggest that mindfulness training improves cognitive function in the elderly. These improvements in cognition have been previously observed by other researchers. The new findings in the present research are the changes in the extracellular vesicles found in the plasma. The expression of the mRNA miR-29c controls the gene expressions of DNMT3A, DNMT3B, and BACE1. These genes are associated with the loss of neurons in the brain. With aging there is a degeneration of the brain including losses of neurons. Reductions in the expression of the genes that tend to produce neuronal loss after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) suggests that the training protects the brain from the loss of neurons. This may represent the mechanism by which mindfulness training protects the brain in aging individual which results in improved cognitive function. It may be how mindfulness training stops cognitive decline in the elderly.

 

So, mindfulness improves cognitive function in older adults by altering brain gene expression.

 

an 8-week mindfulness-based training program improved cognition . . . in cognitively normal older adults, and that these improvements were associated with increased intrinsic connectivity within the default mode network.” – Gunes Sevinc

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Hashizume, S., Nakano, M., Kubota, K., Sato, S., Himuro, N., Kobayashi, E., Takaoka, A., & Fujimiya, M. (2021). Mindfulness intervention improves cognitive function in older adults by enhancing the level of miRNA-29c in neuron-derived extracellular vesicles. Scientific reports, 11(1), 21848. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-01318-y

 

Abstract

Although mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) improves cognitive function, the mechanism is not clear. In this study, people aged 65 years and older were recruited from elderly communities in Chitose City, Japan, and assigned to a non-MBSR group or a MBSR group. Before and after the intervention, the Japanese version of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA-J) was administered, and blood samples were collected. Then, neuron-derived extracellular vesicles (NDEVs) were isolated from blood samples, and microRNAs, as well as the target mRNAs, were evaluated in NDEVs. A linear mixed model analysis showed significant effects of the MBSR x time interaction on the MoCA-J scores, the expression of miRNA(miR)-29c, DNA methyltransferase 3 alpha (DNMT3A), and DNMT3B in NDEVs. These results indicate that MBSR can improve cognitive function by increasing the expression of miR-29c and decreasing the expression of DNMT3A, as well as DNMT3B, in neurons. It was also found that intracerebroventricular injection of miR-29c mimic into 5xFAD mice prevented cognitive decline, as well as neuronal loss in the subiculum area, by down-regulating Dnmt3a  and Dnmt3b  in the hippocampus. The present study suggests that MBSR can prevent neuronal loss and cognitive impairment by increasing the neuronal expression of miR-29c.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8575875/

 

Mindfulness is Associated with Better Cognitive Performance in College Students

Mindfulness is Associated with Better Cognitive Performance in College Students

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Effective learning and sustained attention and memory are important requirements for success and well-being in academic contexts. Incorporating a mindfulness meditation course in the curriculum may be a feasible approach to improve learning effectiveness and cognition performance in university students.” – Ho-Hoi Ching

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. There is a lot of pressure on college students to excel. This stress might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede the student’s physical and mental health, well-being, and school performance. Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health. Indeed, these practices have been found to improve psychological health in college students. Mindfulness has also been shown to improve cognitive abilities. So, it is possible that mindfulness is associated with better performance in college.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness, cognitive functioning, and academic achievement in college students: the mediating role of stress.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8516329/ ) McBride and colleagues recruited college students and had them complete a questionnaire measuring mindfulness, decentering, perceived stress, cognitive abilities, cognitive concerns, and academic performance (GPA).

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness and decentering the lower the levels of perceived stress, and the higher the levels of cognitive abilities and cognitive concerns. Also, the higher the levels of perceived stress the lower the levels of cognitive abilities and cognitive concerns. Further they found that mindfulness was associated with greater cognitive abilities and cognitive concerns directly and indirectly by being associated with lower perceived stress which was in turn associated with greater cognitive abilities and cognitive concerns. The one disappointing result was that mindfulness, although associated with better cognition, was not associated with performance in college.

 

These findings are correlative. So, causation cannot be determined. But previous controlled research has demonstrated that mindfulness causes improvements in cognition and reductions in perceived stress. So, the present results are likely also due to causal effects of mindfulness on stress and cognition. The results also show that the ability of mindfulness to affect cognition is not only by directly improving cognition but also by reducing perceived stress which results in improved cognition. This is not surprising as the high levels of stress endured by college students interferes with cognition.

 

So, mindfulness is associated with better cognitive performance in college students.

 

Among undergraduate students, higher mindfulness was related both to a lower frequency of negative automatic thoughts and to an enhanced ability to let go of those thoughts.” – Praxis

 

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

 

McBride, E. E., & Greeson, J. M. (2021). Mindfulness, cognitive functioning, and academic achievement in college students:the mediating role of stress. Current Psychology (New Brunswick, N.j.), 1–11. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-021-02340-z

 

Abstract

Higher trait mindfulness may be associated with better cognitive functioning and academic achievement in college students. Although mediating mechanisms are unclear, lower stress levels could explain this relationship. Participants: Cross-sectional online survey (n = 534; 33% non-white; Apr 2018 – Sep 2019). Path analysis tested Perceived Stress as a mediator between specific facets of trait mindfulness and three measures of self-reported cognitive functioning and academic achievement: Cognitive Abilities, Cognitive Concerns, and GPA. Perceived Stress fully or partially mediated the relationship between all facets of trait mindfulness and perceived cognitive functioning. Only Decentering, however, was associated with higher GPA as a function of lower stress. Lower stress can explain the link between higher trait mindfulness and better cognitive functioning, but not necessarily academic achievement. Future research is needed to address causality, examine objective measures of cognitive functioning, and extend this explanatory model to mindfulness training.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8516329/

 

Strengthen the Brain and Improve Cognition in Older Adults with Mindfulness

Strengthen the Brain and Improve Cognition in Older Adults with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness training, with its emphasis on present-focused attention and regulation of the habitual, reflexive tendencies of the mind, has the potential to enhance cognitive control operations in the elderly and the neural circuitry associated with it.” – Ruchika S Prakash

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline of the body and the brain. Every system in the body deteriorates including cognitive function (thinking ability) and motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. There is some hope as there is evidence that these declines can be slowed. For example, a healthy diet and a regular program of exercise can slow the physical and cognitive decline of the body with aging. Also, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline. Research has found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Training Improves Cognition and Strengthens Intrinsic Connectivity Between the Hippocampus and Posteromedial Cortex in Healthy Older Adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8430251/ ) Sevinc and colleagues recruited healthy elderly participants (aged 65 to 80 years) who were evaluated as cognitively normal and randomly assigned them to receive either mindfulness training or cognitive fitness training. Mindfulness training was delivered in 8 weekly 105 minute sessions and was modelled after the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program containing training in meditation, body scan, and yoga along with discussion and daily home practice. The cognitive fitness training consisted of 8 weekly 1-hour sessions of word finding and crossword puzzle solving along with home puzzle solving. They were measured before and after training for memory and cognitive performance. In addition, their brains were scanned before and after training with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

 

They found that in comparison to baseline the group that received mindfulness training had significant increases in cognitive performance, primarily due to episodic memory improvement, while the cognitive fitness training group did not. The brain scans revealed that the mindfulness group had increased functional connectivity between the hippocampus and the angular gyrus. Additionally, the improved cognitive performance after mindfulness training was associated with increased connectivity between the precuneus and the hippocampus.

 

The findings suggest that mindfulness training improves cognition in cognitively intact elderly individuals. This may be why mindfulness training has been shown to reduce age related cognitive decline and dementia. The results also suggest that these improvements in cognition may be related to changes in the connectivity of the brain. The observed changes produced by mindfulness training were in the connectivity between the hippocampus and the precuneus and between the hippocampus and the angular gyrus. These are structures included in what is known as the brain’s default mode network, which is known to have decreased activity in association with age-related cognitive decline. So, the improved connectivity may indicate that mindfulness training protects the brain from deterioration associated with aging and this may be responsible for improved cognition in the elderly.

 

So, strengthen the brain and improve cognition in older adults with mindfulness.

 

recent research suggests about how mindfulness meditation practice may help keep aging brains fit and functional.” – Grace Bullock

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Sevinc, G., Rusche, J., Wong, B., Datta, T., Kaufman, R., Gutz, S. E., Schneider, M., Todorova, N., Gaser, C., Thomalla, G., Rentz, D., Dickerson, B. D., & Lazar, S. W. (2021). Mindfulness Training Improves Cognition and Strengthens Intrinsic Connectivity Between the Hippocampus and Posteromedial Cortex in Healthy Older Adults. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 13, 702796. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2021.702796

 

Abstract

Maintaining optimal cognitive functioning throughout the lifespan is a public health priority. Evaluation of cognitive outcomes following interventions to promote and preserve brain structure and function in older adults, and associated neural mechanisms, are therefore of critical importance. In this randomized controlled trial, we examined the behavioral and neural outcomes following mindfulness training (n = 72), compared to a cognitive fitness program (n = 74) in healthy, cognitively normal, older adults (65–80 years old). To assess cognitive functioning, we used the Preclinical Alzheimer Cognitive Composite (PACC), which combines measures of episodic memory, executive function, and global cognition. We hypothesized that mindfulness training would enhance cognition, increase intrinsic functional connectivity measured with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) between the hippocampus and posteromedial cortex, as well as promote increased gray matter volume within those regions. Following the 8-week intervention, the mindfulness training group showed improved performance on the PACC, while the control group did not. Furthermore, following mindfulness training, greater improvement on the PACC was associated with a larger increase in intrinsic connectivity within the default mode network, particularly between the right hippocampus and posteromedial cortex and between the left hippocampus and lateral parietal cortex. The cognitive fitness training group did not show such effects. These findings demonstrate that mindfulness training improves cognitive performance in cognitively intact older individuals and strengthens connectivity within the default mode network, which is particularly vulnerable to aging affects.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8430251/

 

Reduce Stress and Improve Sleep and Cognition with Yoga

Reduce Stress and Improve Sleep and Cognition with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

yoga can improve your sleep, increase mindfulness, relieve anxiety and even help you stick to healthy habits in other aspects of your life.” – Corey Stieg

 

Modern society has become more around-the-clock and more complex producing considerable pressure and stress on the individual. The advent of the internet and smart phones has exacerbated the problem. The resultant stress can impair sleep. Indeed, it is estimated that over half of Americans sleep too little due to stress. As a result, people today sleep 20% less than they did 100 years ago. Not having a good night’s sleep has adverse effects upon the individual’s health, well-being, and happiness. It has been estimated that 30 to 35% of adults have brief symptoms of insomnia, 15 to 20% have a short-term insomnia disrder, and 10% have chronic insomnia. These sleep problems can interfere with cognitive functions.

 

Mindfulness-based practices including yoga practice have been reported to improve sleep amount and quality and help with insomnia, to reduce stress, and improve cognitive function. The research is accumulating. So, it makes sense to step back and summarize what has been learned about the effects of yoga practice on stress, sleep, and cognition.

 

In today’s Research News article “Sleep, Cognition, and Yoga.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8191228/ ) Panjwani and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies on the effects of yoga practice on stress, sleep, and cognition.

 

They report that the published research studies found that yoga practice improved sleep quality, sleep architecture and mental well-being in adults and the elderly. It also improved sleep in individuals with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. In addition, they report that yoga produces improvement in cognitive function, mood, and stress in healthy adults and reduces cognitive decline in the elderly.

 

Hence, the published research demonstrates that yoga practice is beneficial for sleep, cognition, and mental well-being in adults and the elderly. This suggests that yoga practice should be incorporated into the individual’s lifestyle during their adult life and into their golden years.

 

So, reduce stress and improve sleep and cognition with yoga.

 

A national survey found that over 55% of people who did yoga found that it helped them get better sleep. Over 85% said yoga helped reduce stress.” – Marlyn Wei

 

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

 

Panjwani, U., Dudani, S., & Wadhwa, M. (2021). Sleep, Cognition, and Yoga. International journal of yoga, 14(2), 100–108. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_110_20

 

Abstract

Stress is one of the major problems globally, associated with poor sleep quality and cognitive dysfunction. Modern society is plagued by sleep disturbances, either due to professional demands or lifestyle or both the aspects, often leading to reduced alertness and compromised mental function, besides the well documented ill effects of disturbed sleep on physiological functions. This pertinent issue needs to be addressed. Yoga is an ancient Indian science, philosophy and way of life. Recently, yoga practice has become increasingly popular worldwide. Yoga practice is an adjunct effective for stress, sleep and associated disorders. There are limited well controlled published studies conducted in this area. We reviewed the available literature including the effect of modern lifestyle in children, adolescents, adults and geriatric population. The role of yoga and meditation in optimizing sleep architecture and cognitive functions leading to optimal brain functioning in normal and diseased state is discussed. We included articles published in English with no fixed time duration for literature search. Literature was searched mainly by using PubMed and Science Direct search engines and critically examined. Studies have revealed positive effects of yoga on sleep and cognitive skills among healthy adults as well as patients of some neurological diseases. Further, on evaluating the published studies, it is concluded that sleep and cognitive functions are optimized by yoga practice, which brings about changes in autonomic function, structural changes, changes in metabolism, neurochemistry and improved functional brain network connectivity in key regions of the brain.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8191228/