Tuesday, June 27, 2017


Coventry University’s Brain, Belief and Behaviour lab works at the cutting-edge of mind-body integration by developing innovative models and interventions to modify or enhance neuro-cognitive functions, beliefs and behavior.

The lab recently conducted the first systematic review of studies of gene activity inside cells and how meditation (including mindfulness meditation) and other mind-body practices might influence the immune system and disease risk.

The research team analysed 18 trials including 846 participants, ranging from a 2005 study of Qigong to a 2014 trial that tested whether tai chi influenced gene activity in people with insomnia.

Although the quality of studies was mixed and the results were complex, an overall pattern emerged. Genes related to inflammation became less active in people practicing mind-body interventions. Genes controlled by a key protein that acts as an inflammation ‘on-switch’, NF-ĸB, seem to be particularly affected.

Microscopic gene. Source: Cardiff University.

Chronic inflammation is associated with increased risk for psychiatric disorders, autoimmune conditions such as asthma and arthritis, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease and some types of cancer. Some 5 years ago researchers at NYU School of Medicine for the first time identified a single gene that simultaneously controls inflammation, accelerated aging and cancer and researchers at Cardiff University recently discovered that genetic variation is the reason why some immune systems overreact to viruses.

The results of the analysis suggest mind-body interventions might help reduce the risk for inflammation-related disorders, both psychological and physical. However, some rigorous clinical trials are still needed to show whether the changes in gene expression really do result in improved physical health.

Acknowledgement. Some of the material in this post first appeared online in New Scientist on 16 June 2017 and was authored by Jo Marchant. All rights reserved.

Journal reference: Buric I, Farias M, Jong J, Mee C and Brazil I A. ‘What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices.’ Frontiers in Immunology, 16 June 2017 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2017.00670

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