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Background: This study examined the feasibility, safety and efficacy of an 8-week Relaxation Response (RR)-based group. Methods: Twenty-two depressed Chinese American immigrants were recruited. Outcomes measures were response and remission rates, the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, Clinical Global Impressions Scale, Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire, and the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support Scale. Results: Participants (N = 22) were 82% female, mean age was 53 (±12). After intervention, completers (N = 15) showed a 40% response rate and a 27% remission rate, and statistically significant improvement in most outcome measures. Discussion: The RR-based group is feasible and safe in treating Chinese American immigrants with depression.
Previous research indicates that long-term meditation practice is associated with altered resting electroencephalogram patterns, suggestive of long lasting changes in brain activity. We hypothesized that meditation practice might also be associated with changes in the brain’s physical structure. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to assess cortical thickness in 20 participants with extensive Insight meditation experience, which involves focused attention to internal experiences. Brain regions associated with attention, interoception and sensory processing were thicker in meditation participants than matched controls, including the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula. Between-group differences in prefrontal cortical thickness were most pronounced in older participants, suggesting that meditation might offset age-related cortical thinning. Finally, the thickness of two regions correlated with meditation experience. These data provide the first structural evidence for experience-dependent cortical plasticity associated with meditation practice.
OBJECTIVES: The study objectives were to develop and objectively assess the therapeutic effect of a novel movement-based complementary and alternative medicine approach for children with an autism-spectrum disorder (ASD).DESIGN: A within-subject analysis comparing pre- to post-treatment scores on two standard measures of childhood behavioral problems was used. SETTINGS AND LOCATION: The intervention and data analysis occurred at a tertiary care, medical school teaching hospital. SUBJECTS: Twenty-four (24) children aged 3-16 years with a diagnosis of an ASD comprised the study group. INTERVENTION: The efficacy of an 8-week multimodal yoga, dance, and music therapy program based on the relaxation response (RR) was developed and examined. OUTCOME MEASURES: The study outcome was measured using The Behavioral Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (BASC-2) and the Aberrant Behavioral Checklist (ABC). RESULTS: Robust changes were found on the BASC-2, primarily for 5-12-year-old children. Unexpectedly, the post-treatment scores on the Atypicality scale of the BASC-2, which measures some of the core features of autism, changed significantly (p=0.003). CONCLUSIONS: A movement-based, modified RR program, involving yoga and dance, showed efficacy in treating behavioral and some core features of autism, particularly for latency-age children.
The relaxation response (RR) is the counterpart of the stress response. Millennia-old practices evoking the RR include meditation, yoga and repetitive prayer. Although RR elicitation is an effective therapeutic intervention that counteracts the adverse clinical effects of stress in disorders including hypertension, anxiety, insomnia and aging, the underlying molecular mechanisms that explain these clinical benefits remain undetermined. To assess rapid time-dependent (temporal) genomic changes during one session of RR practice among healthy practitioners with years of RR practice and also in novices before and after 8 weeks of RR training, we measured the transcriptome in peripheral blood prior to, immediately after, and 15 minutes after listening to an RR-eliciting or a health education CD. Both short-term and long-term practitioners evoked significant temporal gene expression changes with greater significance in the latter as compared to novices. RR practice enhanced expression of genes associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance, and reduced expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress-related pathways. Interactive network analyses of RR-affected pathways identified mitochondrial ATP synthase and insulin (INS) as top upregulated critical molecules (focus hubs) and NF-κB pathway genes as top downregulated focus hubs. Our results for the first time indicate that RR elicitation, particularly after long-term practice, may evoke its downstream health benefits by improving mitochondrial energy production and utilization and thus promoting mitochondrial resiliency through upregulation of ATPase and insulin function. Mitochondrial resiliency might also be promoted by RR-induced downregulation of NF-κB-associated upstream and downstream targets that mitigates stress.
To examine the extent to which advanced meditative practices might alter body metabolism and the electroencephalogram (EEG), we investigated three Tibetan Buddhist monks living in the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim, India. In a study carried out in February 1988, we found that during the practice of several different meditative practices, resting metabolism ([Vdot]O2) could be both raised (up to 61%) and lowered (down to 64%). The reduction from rest is the largest ever reported. On the EEG, marked asymmetry in alpha and beta activity between the hemispheres and increased beta activity were present. From these three case reports, we conclude that advanced meditative practices may yield different alterations in metabolism (there are also forms of meditation that increase metabolism) and that the decreases in metabolism can be striking.