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Transl Psychiatry. 2016 Aug 30;6(8):e880. doi: 10.1038/tp.2016.164.

Meditation and vacation effects have an impact on disease-associated molecular phenotypes.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.
2
Departments of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.
3
Capella Biosciences Inc., Palo Alto, CA, USA.
4
Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.
5
Department of Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA.
6
Genetics and Aging Research Unit, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA, USA.

Abstract

Meditation is becoming increasingly practiced, especially for stress-related medical conditions. Meditation may improve cellular health; however, studies have not separated out effects of meditation from vacation-like effects in a residential randomized controlled trial. We recruited healthy women non-meditators to live at a resort for 6 days and randomized to either meditation retreat or relaxing on-site, with both groups compared with 'regular meditators' already enrolled in the retreat. Blood drawn at baseline and post intervention was assessed for transcriptome-wide expression patterns and aging-related biomarkers. Highly significant gene expression changes were detected across all groups (the 'vacation effect') that could accurately predict (96% accuracy) between baseline and post-intervention states and were characterized by improved regulation of stress response, immune function and amyloid beta (Aβ) metabolism. Although a smaller set of genes was affected, regular meditators showed post-intervention differences in a gene network characterized by lower regulation of protein synthesis and viral genome activity. Changes in well-being were assessed post intervention relative to baseline, as well as 1 and 10 months later. All groups showed equivalently large immediate post-intervention improvements in well-being, but novice meditators showed greater maintenance of lower distress over time compared with those in the vacation arm. Regular meditators showed a trend toward increased telomerase activity compared with randomized women, who showed increased plasma Aβ42/Aβ40 ratios and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) levels. This highly controlled residential study showed large salutary changes in gene expression networks due to the vacation effect, common to all groups. For those already trained in the practice of meditation, a retreat appears to provide additional benefits to cellular health beyond the vacation effect.

PMID:
27576169
PMCID:
PMC5022094
DOI:
10.1038/tp.2016.164
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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