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The dynamic interactions among physiological rhythms imbedded in the heart rate signal can give valuable insights into autonomic modulation in conditions of reduced outward attention. Therefore, in this study we analyzed the heart rate variability (HRV) in different levels of practice in Zen meditation (Zazen). Nineteen subjects with variable experience took part in this study. In four special cases we collected both HRV and respiration data. The time series were analyzed in frequency domain and also using the Continuous Wavelet Transform, which detects changes in the time domain and in the frequency domain simultaneously. The shifts in the respiratory modulation of heart rate, or respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), reflect the different levels of practice among practitioners with variable experience in Zazen; in turn the modulation of the RSA may reflect changes in the breathing pattern as in the parasympathetic outflow related to the quality and focus of attention in each stage.
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Objective This study compared changes in bodily pain, health-related quality of life (HRQoL), and psychological symptoms during an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program among groups of participants with different chronic pain conditions. Methods From 1997-2003, a longitudinal investigation of chronic pain patients ( n=133) was nested within a larger prospective cohort study of heterogeneous patients participating in MBSR at a university-based Integrative Medicine center. Measures included the Short-Form 36 Health Survey and Symptom Checklist-90-Revised. Paired t tests were used to compare pre–post changes on outcome measures. Differences in treatment effect sizes were compared as a function of chronic pain condition. Correlations were examined between outcome parameters and home meditation practice. Results Outcomes differed in significance and magnitude across common chronic pain conditions. Diagnostic subgroups of patients with arthritis, back/neck pain, or two or more comorbid pain conditions demonstrated a significant change in pain intensity and functional limitations due to pain following MBSR. Participants with arthritis showed the largest treatment effects for HRQoL and psychological distress. Patients with chronic headache/migraine experienced the smallest improvement in pain and HRQoL. Patients with fibromyalgia had the smallest improvement in psychological distress. Greater home meditation practice was associated with improvement on several outcome measures, including overall psychological distress, somatization symptoms, and self-rated health, but not pain and other quality of life scales. Conclusion MBSR treatment effects on pain, HRQoL and psychological well-being vary as a function of chronic pain condition and compliance with home meditation practice.
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The onset of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) is unevenly distributed over the 24 h and the week. While presence of a morning peak is generally agreed upon, contrasting results had been obtained regarding other periods of the day, probably due to differences of origin, size and composition of the populations. The 24 h and weekly distributions were studied within 6 h from the beginning of the symptoms in a population following a Latin life-style, who were enrolled in the GISSI2 Study (n=11472). Subgroups (smokers, the elderly (>65 years), diabetics, hypertensives) were also considered. Six hour periods starting at midnight were tested for uniformity. Circadian non-uniformity was found. Events increased in the morning hours and reduced during the night regardless of the day of the week. The night and day difference was attenuated in smokers and diabetics. Non-uniformity of the events was also found among the days of the week. AMI significantly increased in non-smokers on Monday. We suggest that there is a night-day gradient (characterized by the short time interval between the two frequency extremes) in the time of onset of AMI. The different distribution in smokers stresses the possible unfavourable and masking effect of a heightened sympathetic tone during the day while the general protective role of the night hours is preserved. Moreover, the increased incidence of events on Monday may suggest the importance of the shift from a period of non-scheduled to scheduled activity.
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Interoception refers to the conscious perception of body signals. Mindfulness is a meditation practice that encourages individuals to focus on their internal experiences such as bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions. In this study, we selected a behavioral measure of interoceptive sensitivity (heartbeat detection task, HBD) to compare the effect of meditation practice on interoceptive sensitivity among long term practitioners (LTP), short term meditators (STM, subjects that completed a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program) and controls (non-meditators). All participants were examined with a battery of different tasks including mood state, executive function and social cognition tests (emotion recognition, empathy and theory of mind). Findings Compared to controls, both meditators? groups showed lower levels of anxiety and depression, but no improvement in executive function or social cognition performance was observed (except for lower scores compared to controls only in the personal distress dimension of empathy). More importantly, meditators? performance did not differ from that of nonmeditators regarding cardiac interoceptive sensitivity. Conclusion Results suggest no influence of meditation practice in cardiac interoception and in most related social cognition measures. These negative results could be partially due to the fact that awareness of heartbeat sensations is not emphasized during mindfulness/vipassana meditation and may not be the best index of the awareness supported by the practice of meditation.
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In this meta-analysis, we give a comprehensive overview of the effects of meditation on psychological variables that can be extracted from empirical studies, concentrating on the effects of meditation on nonclinical groups of adult meditators. Mostly because of methodological problems, almost ¾ of an initially identified 595 studies had to be excluded. Most studies appear to have been conducted without sufficient theoretical background. To put the results into perspective, we briefly summarize the major theoretical approaches from both East and West. The 163 studies that allowed the calculation of effect sizes exhibited medium average effects ( = .28 for all studies and = .27 for the n = 125 studies from reviewed journals), which cannot be explained by mere relaxation or cognitive restructuring effects. In general, results were strongest (medium to large) for changes in emotionality and relationship issues, less strong (about medium) for measures of attention, and weakest (small to medium) for more cognitive measures. However, specific findings varied across different approaches to meditation (transcendental meditation, mindfulness meditation, and other meditation techniques). Surprisingly, meditation experience only partially covaried with long-term impact on the variables examined. In general, the dependent variables used cover only some of the content areas about which predictions can be made from already existing theories about meditation; still, such predictions lack precision at present. We conclude that to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of why and how meditation works, emphasis should be placed on the development of more precise theories and measurement devices.
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Objective. To critically review the evidence on the effectiveness of complementary therapies for patients with RA. Randomized controlled trials, published in English up to May 2011, were identified using systematic searches of bibliographic databases and searching of reference lists. Information was extracted on outcomes and statistical significance in comparison with alternative treatments and reported side effects. The methodological quality of the identified studies was determined using the Jadad scoring system. All outcomes were considered but with a focus on patient global assessment and pain reporting. Eleven eligible trials were identified covering seven therapies. Three trials that compared acupuncture with sham acupuncture reported no significant difference in pain reduction between the groups but one out of two reported an improvement in patient global assessment. Except for reduction in physicianʼs global assessment of treatment and disease activity reported in one trial, no other comparative benefit of acupuncture was seen. There were two studies on meditation and one each on autogenic training, healing therapy, progressive muscle relaxation, static magnets and tai chi. None of these trials reported positive comparative effects on pain but some positive effects on patient global assessment were noted at individual time points in the healing therapy and magnet therapy studies. A small number of other outcomes showed comparative improvement in individual trials. There were no reports of major adverse events. The very limited evidence available indicates that for none of the practitioner-based complementary therapies considered here is there good evidence of efficacy or effectiveness in the management of RA
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