Mind-Body Medicine Research Update

Neurofeedback-enhanced gamma brainwaves from the prefrontal cortical region of meditators and non-meditators and associated subjective experiencesJ Altern Complement Med. 2011 Feb;17(2):109-15. Epub 2011 Feb 8. by Rubik B. from Institute for Frontier Science, Oakland, CA 94611-2802, USA. brubik@earthlink.net

OBJECTIVES:  This study had two aims: (1) to explore the inner experiences associated with increased production of gamma brainwaves in an initial neurofeedback experience; and (2) to measure and compare neurofeedback-enhanced increased output from the prefrontal cortical region of meditators and non-meditators, using the Peak Brain Happiness Trainer(™) neurofeedback system.  DESIGN: This was a controlled pilot study; it involved a single session per subject.  SETTING:  The research was conducted in a nonprofit laboratory in the United States.  SUBJECTS:  There were 12 adults in 2 groups (N = 12): 6 practitioners of Transcendental Meditation(™) and six controls.  MEASURES:  The measures were self-assessed inner experiences and measurements of clarified gamma output at the prefrontal cortical region. RESULTS:  (1) Self-assessed descriptions were comparable for both groups; (2) the associations of 16 supplied descriptors with the initial neurofeedback experience were comparable for both groups and showed highest scores for “happy” (p < 0.0001) and “loving” (p < 0.0001), and lowest scores for “stressed” (p < 0.0001) and “disappointed” (p < 0.0001); (3) baseline measures were comparable for both groups; (4) both groups were able to increase gamma brainwaves using neurofeedback (p < 0.01); and (5) meditators produced greater increases over controls (p = 0.02).

CONCLUSIONS:  The inner experience associated with increased clarified gamma amplitude from the prefrontal cortex apparently involves positive emotions of happiness and love, along with reduced stress. Meditators achieved greater increases in the gamma band from the prefrontal cortical region over controls during an initial neurofeedback session.

Mind-body interventions during pregnancy for preventing or treating women’s anxiety. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Jul 6;7:CD007559. By Marc I, Toureche N, Ernst E, Hodnett ED, Blanchet C, Dodin S, Njoya MM. from Département de pédiatrie, Université Laval, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Québec, 2705 boulevard Laurier, Québec, Québec, Canada, G1V 4G2.

BACKGROUND:  Anxiety during pregnancy is a common problem. Anxiety and stress could have consequences on the course of the pregnancy and the later development of the child. Anxiety responds well to treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy and/or medication. Non-pharmacological interventions such as mind-body interventions, known to decrease anxiety in several clinical situations, might be offered for treating and preventing anxiety during pregnancy. OBJECTIVES:  To assess the benefits of mind-body interventions during pregnancy in preventing or treating women’s anxiety and in influencing perinatal outcomes. SEARCH STRATEGY:  We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group’s Trials Register (30 November 2010), MEDLINE (1950 to 30 November 2010), EMBASE (1974 to 30 November 2010), the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) (1 December 2010), ClinicalTrials.gov (December 2010) and Current Controlled Trials (1 December 2010), searched the reference lists of selected studies and contacted professionals and authors in the field.  SELECTION CRITERIA:  Randomized controlled trials, involving pregnant women of any age at any time from conception to one month after birth, comparing mind-body interventions with a control group. Mind-body interventions include: autogenic training, biofeedback, hypnotherapy, imagery, meditation, prayer, auto-suggestion, tai-chi and yoga. Control group includes: standard care, other pharmacological or non-pharmacological interventions, other types of mind-body interventions or no treatment at all. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Three review authors independently assessed trials for inclusion all assessed risk of bias for each included study. We extracted data independently using an agreed form and checked it for accuracy. MAIN RESULTS:  We included eight trials (556 participants), evaluating hypnotherapy (one trial), imagery (five trials), autogenic training (one trial) and yoga (one trial). Due to the small number of studies per intervention and to the diversity of outcome measurements, we performed no meta-analysis, and have reported results individually for each study. Compared with usual care, in one study (133 women), imagery may have a positive effect on anxiety during labor decreasing anxiety at the early and middle stages of labor (MD -1.46; 95% CI -2.43 to -0.49; one study, 133 women) and (MD -1.24; 95% CI -2.18 to -0.30). Another study showed that imagery had a positive effect on anxiety and depression in the immediate postpartum period. Autogenic training might be effective for decreasing women’s anxiety before delivering.  CONCLUSIONS:  Mind-body interventions might benefit women’s anxiety during pregnancy. Based on individual studies, there is some but no strong evidence for the effectiveness of mind-body interventions for the management of anxiety during pregnancy. The main limitations of the studies were the lack of blinding and insufficient details on the methods used for randomization.

A randomized, controlled trial of meditation for work stress, anxiety and depressed mood in full-time workers. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:960583. by Manocha R, Black D, Sarris J, Stough C. from Discipline of Psychiatry, Sydney Medical School, Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney University, St Leonards, NSW 2065, Australia.

Objective. To assess the effect of meditation on work stress, anxiety and mood in full-time workers. Methods. 178 adult workers participated in an 8-week, 3-arm randomized controlled trial comparing a “mental silence” approach to meditation (n = 59) to a “relaxation” active control (n = 56) and a wait-list control (n = 63). Participants were assessed before and after using Psychological Strain Questionnaire (PSQ), a subscale of the larger Occupational Stress Inventory (OSI), the State component of the State/Trait Anxiety Inventory for Adults (STAI), and the depression-dejection (DD) subscale of the Profile of Mood States (POMS). Results. There was a significant improvement for the meditation group compared to both the relaxation control and the wait-list groups the PSQ (P = .026), and DD (P = .019). Conclusions. Mental silence-orientated meditation, in this case Sahaja Yoga meditation, is a safe and effective strategy for dealing with work stress and depressive feelings. The findings suggest that “thought reduction” or “mental silence” may have specific effects relevant to work stress and hence occupational health.


Meditation and the brain: attention, control and emotion. Mens Sana Monogr. 2011 Jan;9(1):276-83. by Mograbi GJ.  Professor of Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Mind and Epistemology, Federal University of Mato Grosso, Brazil.

Abstract: Meditation has been for long time avoided as a scientific theme because of its complexity and its religious connotations. Fortunately, in the last years, it has increasingly been studied within different neuroscientific experimental protocols. Attention and concentration are surely among the most important topics in these experiments. Notwithstanding this, inhibition of emotions and discursive thoughts are equally important to understand what is at stake during those types of mental processes. I philosophically and technically analyse and compare results from neuroimaging studies, produced by leading authorities on the theme, dealing with two types of meditation: “one-pointed concentration” and “compassion meditation”. Analysing “one-pointed concentration”, I show the differences between novice and expert meditation practitioners in terms of brain activity and connectivity, considering the relationship among increased attention and concentration and decreased activity in areas related to discursive thought and emotion. Analysing “compassion meditation”, I show the importance of the limbic circuitry in emotion sharing. I follow the same strategy of comparing novice and expert meditation practitioners. The conclusion establishes a common structure to those different ways of dealing with emotion during meditation.


Dispositional Mindfulness, Meditation, and Conditional Goal Setting. Mindfulness (N Y). 2010 Dec;1(4):204-214.  By Crane C, Jandric D, Barnhofer T, Williams JM.

Abstract: Conditional goal setting (CGS, the tendency to regard high order goals such as happiness, as conditional upon the achievement of lower order goals) is observed in individuals with depression and recent research has suggested a link between levels of dispositional mindfulness and conditional goal setting in depressed patients. Since interventions which aim to increase mindfulness through training in meditation are used with patients suffering from depression it is of interest to examine whether such interventions might alter CGS. Study 1 examined the correlation between changes in dispositional mindfulness and changes in CGS over a 3-4 month period in patients participating in a pilot randomised controlled trial of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Results indicated that increases in dispositional mindfulness were significantly associated with decreases in CGS, although this effect could not be attributed specifically to the group who had received training in meditation. Study 2 explored the impact of brief periods of either breathing or loving kindness meditation on CGS in 55 healthy participants. Contrary to expectation, a brief period of meditation increased CGS. Further analyses indicated that this effect was restricted to participants low in goal re-engagement ability who were allocated to loving kindness meditation. Longer term changes in dispositional mindfulness are associated with reductions in CGS in patients with depressed mood. However initial reactions to meditation, and in particular loving kindness meditation, may be counterintuitive and further research is required in order to determine the relationship between initial reactions and longer-term benefits of meditation practice.


The scientific study of happiness and health promotion: an integrative literature review. Rev Lat Am Enfermagem. 2010 May-Jun; 18(3):472-9.  By Scorsolini-Comin F, Dos Santos MA.  Source: scorsolini_usp@yahoo.com.br

Abstract: The article aims to trace the profile of publications concerning the concept of subjective well-being (SWB), considered the scientific study of happiness, as well as discussing the impact of this accumulated understanding on health promotion. The revision was carried out in the databases PubMed, MedLine, PsycINFO, SciELO, LILACS and PEPSIC using the descriptor subjective well-being. Articles published in indexed periodicals between 1970 and 2008 were selected. From the inclusion/exclusion criteria 19 publications were selected in full for discussion. Of these, the majority were related to the health area and did not approach the concept of SWB directly, but touched on this together with the notions of well-being, satisfaction and quality of life. There were few publications that approached the term conceptually or that defined the instruments used for the assessment of SWB. Concluding, the results confirm the relevance of the theme for health promotion and the necessity of investigations related to the practices of health professionals.

Is sex just fun? How sexual activity improves healthJ Sex Med. 2009 Oct;6(10):2640-8. by Jannini EA, Fisher WA, Bitzer J, McMahon CG. From Course of Endocrinology and Medical Sexology, Department of Experimental Medicine, University of L’Aquila, L’Aquila 67100, Italy. emmanuele.jannini@univaq.it

INTRODUCTION: With nonscientific, religious, or magic arguments, sexual activity has been regarded in the past as dangerous to health. This opinion is now rejected, and intercourse is generally considered healthy. However, while some aspects of the equation “more sex equals more health” have been demonstrated, others still need robust data for confirmation. METHODS:  Four scientists (an endocrinologist, a psychologist, a gynecologist, and a urologist) with expertise in the area of sexual medicine were asked to contribute with their opinions. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE:  Expert opinion supported by currently available literature.  RESULTS: Expert 1, who is Controversy’s section editor, demonstrates that sexual activity stimulates testosterone production. He infers that this physiological stimulus to androgenic production is one of the reasons why sexual activity improves general health. He is partially supported by the psychological findings in the couple having sex dissected by expert 2 and by the experimental evidences discussed by expert 3, who found that general benefits of sexual activity are not just for men. Expert 4 critically discusses contrasting findings so far published on the relationship between sexual activity and prostate cancer. He, in general agreement with the remainder of the faculty, stresses the need for more research on this entire topic. CONCLUSION:  Readers of The Journal of Sexual Medicine will judge if safe, satisfactory, and frequent sexual activity can be prescribed as a medicine in order to improve both general and sexual health of individuals and of the couples.

Positive affect and psychobiological processes relevant to healthJ Pers. 2009 Dec;77(6):1747-76. by Steptoe A, Dockray S, Wardle J. from Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK. a.steptoe@ucl.ac.uk

Abstract: Empirical evidence suggests that there are marked associations between positive psychological states and health outcomes, including reduced cardiovascular disease risk and increased resistance to infection. These observations have stimulated the investigation of behavioral and biological processes that might mediate protective effects. Evidence linking positive affect with health behaviors has been mixed, though recent cross-cultural research has documented associations with exercising regularly, not smoking, and prudent diet. At the biological level, cortisol output has been consistently shown to be lower among individuals reporting positive affect, and favorable associations with heart rate, blood pressure, and inflammatory markers such as interleukin-6 have also been described. Importantly, these relationships are independent of negative affect and depressed mood, suggesting that positive affect may have distinctive biological correlates that can benefit health. At the same time, positive affect is associated with protective psychosocial factors such as greater social connectedness, perceived social support, optimism, and preference for adaptive coping responses. Positive affect may be part of a broader profile of psychosocial resilience that reduces risk of adverse physical health outcomes.

Positive psychological well-being and mortality: a quantitative review of prospective observational studies. Psychosom Med. 2008 Sep;70(7):741-56. by Chida Y, Steptoe A. from Psychobiology Group, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK. y.chida@ucl.ac.uk

OBJECTIVE:  To review systematically prospective, observational, cohort studies of the association between positive well-being and mortality using meta-analytic methods. Recent years have witnessed increased interest in the relationship between positive psychological well-being and physical health. METHODS:  We searched general bibliographic databases: Medline, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and PubMed up to January 2008. Two reviewers independently extracted data on study characteristics, quality, and estimates of associations. RESULTS: There were 35 studies (26 articles) investigating mortality in initially healthy populations and 35 studies (28 articles) of disease populations. The meta-analyses showed that positive psychological well-being was associated with reduced mortality in both the healthy population (combined hazard ratio (HR) = 0.82; 95% Confidence Interval (CI) = 0.76-0.89; p < .001) and the disease population (combined HR = 0.98; CI = 0.95-1.00; p = .030) studies. There were indications of publication bias in this literature, although the fail-safe numbers were 2444 and 1397 for healthy and disease population studies, respectively. Intriguingly, meta-analysis of studies that controlled for negative affect showed that the protective effects of positive psychological well-being were independent of negative affect. Both positive affect (e.g., emotional well-being, positive mood, joy, happiness, vigor, energy) and positive trait-like dispositions (e.g., life satisfaction, hopefulness, optimism, sense of humor) were associated with reduced mortality in healthy population studies. Positive psychological well-being was significantly associated with reduced cardiovascular mortality in healthy population studies, and with reduced death rates in patients with renal failure and with human immunodeficiency virus-infection. CONCLUSIONS: The current review suggests that positive psychological well-being has a favorable effect on survival in both healthy and diseased populations.

Activation of the anterior prefrontal cortex and serotonergic system is associated with improvements in mood and EEG changes induced by Zen meditation practice in novices. Int J Psychophysiol. 2011 May;80(2):103-11.  By Yu X, Fumoto M, Nakatani Y, Sekiyama T, Kikuchi H, Seki Y, Sato-Suzuki I, Arita H. from Dept of Physiology, Toho University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.

Abstract: To gain insight into the neurophysiological mechanisms involved in Zen meditation, we evaluated the effects of focused attention (FA) on breathing movements in the lower abdomen (Tanden) in novices. We investigated hemodynamic changes in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), an attention-related brain region, using 24-channel near-infrared spectroscopy during a 20-minute session of FA on Tanden breathing in 15 healthy volunteers. We found that the level of oxygenated hemoglobin in the anterior PFC was significantly increased during FA on Tanden breathing, accompanied by a reduction in feelings of negative mood compared to before the meditation session. Electroencephalography (EEG) revealed increased alpha band activity and decreased theta band activity during and after FA on Tanden breathing. EEG changes were correlated with a significant increase in whole blood serotonin (5-HT) levels. These results suggest that activation of the anterior PFC and 5-HT system may be responsible for the improvement of negative mood and EEG signal changes observed during FA on Tanden breathing.

Detection of nighttime melatonin level in Chinese Original Quiet Sitting. J Formos Med Assoc. 2010 Oct;109(10):694-701.  By Liou CH, Hsieh CW, Hsieh CH, Chen DY, Wang CH, Chen JH, Lee SC. From Interdisciplinary MRI/MRS Laboratory, National Taiwan University, Roosevelt Road, Taipei, Taiwan.

BACKGROUND/PURPOSE:  Some research has shown that melatonin levels increase after meditation practices, but other research has shown that they do not. In our previous functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we found positive activation of the pineal body during Chinese Original Quiet Sitting (COQS). To find other supporting evidence for pineal activation, the aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of COQS on nighttime melatonin levels. METHODS:  Twenty subjects (11 women and 9 men, aged 29-64 years) who had regularly practiced daily meditation for 5-24 years participated in this study. All subjects served alternately as participants in the mediation and control groups. COQS was adopted in this study. Tests were performed during two nighttime sessions. Saliva was sampled at 0, 10, 20, 30, 45, 60 and 90 minutes after COQS and tested for level of melatonin. Time period effect analysis and mixed effect model analysis were preceded by paired t test analysis. RESULTS:  In the meditation group (n = 20), the mean level of melatonin was significantly higher than the baseline level at various times post-meditation (p < 0.001). Within the control group (n = 20), the mean level of melatonin at various times was not significantly different compared with baseline (p>0.05). These results suggested that the melatonin level was statistically elevated in the meditation group and almost unchanged in the control group after nighttime meditation. The urine serotonin levels detected by measuring 5-hydroxy-indole-3-acetic acid levels were also studied, but no detectable difference between the groups was found.  CONCLUSION:  Our results support the hypothesis that meditation might elevate the nighttime salivary melatonin levels. It suggests that COQS can be used as a psychophysiological stimulus to increase endogenous secretion of melatonin, which in turn, might contribute to an improved sense of well-being.

[Compiled by Kevin W Chen]

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