A small study from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers found that online virtual communities may be an effective way to train patients in meditation and other mind/body techniques. The ability to learn and practice approaches that elicit the relaxation response - a state of deep rest that has been shown to alleviate stress-related symptoms - in a virtual environment could help surmount several barriers that can restrict participation. "Our finding that a medical intervention - in this case teaching a mind/body approach that includes the relaxation response - can be delivered via a virtual environment is important because these environments are are richer and more rewarding than simply using interactive web sites, " says Daniel Hoch, MD, PhD, of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at MGH http://www.
Schoolteachers who underwent a short but intensive program of meditation were less depressed, anxious or stressed - and more compassionate and aware of others' feelings, according to a UCSF-led study that blended ancient meditation practices with the most current scientific methods for regulating emotions. A core feature of many religions, meditation is practiced by tens of millions around the world as part of their spiritual beliefs as well as to alleviate psychological problems, improve self-awareness and to clear the mind. Previous research has linked meditation to positive changes in blood pressure, metabolism and pain, but less is known about the specific emotional changes that result from the practice. The new study was designed to create new techniques to reduce destructive emotions while improving social and emotional behavior.
Earlier evidence out of UCLA suggested that meditating for years thickens the brain (in a good way) and strengthens the connections between brain cells. Now a further report by UCLA researchers suggests yet another benefit. Eileen Luders, an assistant professor at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, and colleagues, have found that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification ("folding" of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster) than people who do not meditate. Further, a direct correlation was found between the amount of gyrification and the number of meditation years, possibly providing further proof of the brain's neuroplasticity, or ability to adapt to environmental changes. The article appears in the online edition of the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
Coping And Quality Of Life For The Caregivers Of Alzheimer's Patients Enhanced By A Simple, Low-Cost Yoga Program
For every individual who's a victim of Alzheimer's - some 5.4 million persons in the United States alone - there's a related victim: the caregiver. Spouse, son, daughter, other relative or friend, the loneliness, exhaustion, fear and most of all stress and depression takes a toll While care for the caregivers is difficult to find, a new study out of UCLA suggests that using yoga to engage in very brief, simple daily meditation can lead to improved cognitive functioning and lower levels of depression for caregivers. Dr. Helen Lavretsky, professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, and colleagues report a further benefit as well: a reduction in stress-induced cellular aging. The report appears in the current online edition of the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
An article by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), New York Medical College (NYMC), and the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons (CCPS) reviews evidence that yoga may be effective in treating patients with stress-related psychological and medical conditions such as depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and cardiac disease. Their theory, which currently appears online in Medical Hypotheses, could be used to develop specific mind-body practices for the prevention and treatment of these conditions in conjunction with standard treatments. It is hypothesized that stress causes an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system (parasympathetic under-activity and sympathetic over-activity) as well as under-activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA).