A pilot study of mind-body changes in adults with asthma

Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.

2004 Jul-Aug;10(4):66-71.

 Epstein GN, Halper JP, Barrett EA, Birdsall C, McGee , Baron KP, Lowenstein S.

The Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, NY, USA.

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 Despite the growing number of studies of imagery and the use of complementary and alternative modalities as treatments for asthma, research on mental imagery in adults with asthma is practically, nonexistent. The purpose of this feasibility study was to lay groundwork for a larger follow-up clinical trial.


To determine whether pulmonary function, asthma symptoms, quality of life, depression, anxiety, and power differ over time in adults with asthma who do and do not practice mental imagery (MI). (Power is the ability to make aware choices with the intention of freely involving oneself in creating desired change.)


Randomized controlled study using univariate repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) and replacement through block design.


Lenox Hill Hospital, an affiliate of New York University Medical School, New York, NY. SUBJECTS: Sixty-eight adults with symptomatic asthma, after 4 weeks of baseline data collection and analysis, met requirements for this randomized controlled study. Thirty-three completed pulmonary function as well as self-report tests at 4 time points over 17 weeks. The 16 experimental participants also completed the 4-session imagery protocol.


Individual imagery instruction (week 1) and follow-up (weeks 4, 9, 15). Participants were given 7 imagery exercises to select from and practice 3 times a day for a total of 15 minutes.


1) Spirometry (FEV1); 2) medication use; 3) Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire; 4) Beck Depression Inventory; 5) Spielberger Anxiety Scales (A-State and A-Trait); 6) Barrett Power as Knowing Participation in Change Tool, Version II; 7) Epstein Balloon Test of Ability to Image.


There was little evidence of statistical change in this feasibility study; yet, valuable lessons were learned. Paired t-tests indicated there was a significant difference in the total power scores in the imagery group, and in the expected direction (two-tailed, t-statistic = -2.3, P = 0.035) and the choices sub-scale (two-tailed, tstatistic = -2.93, P = 0.01) of the power instrument from weeks one to 16 of the study. Eight of 17 (47%) participants in the MI group reduced or discontinued their medications. Three of 16 (19%) participants in the control group reduced their medications; none discontinued. Chi-square indicated differences between groups (X2 = 4.66, P = 0.05). Persons who reduced or discontinued their medications showed neither an increase in pulmonary function prior to medication discontinuation, nor a fall in these parameters following discontinuation.


 Findings related to major outcome measures must be viewed with caution due to the small sample size resulting from attrition related to labor intensiveness and, therefore, low statistical power. However, the study did provide significant data to plan a larger scale study of the use of mental imagery with adult asthmatics. The study also demonstrated that imagery is inexpensive, safe and, with training, can be used as an adjunct therapy by patients themselves. Its efficacy needs additional exploration. Further research for adults with asthma who practice imagery is important, as current treatments are not entirely efficacious. Lessons learned in this study may facilitate improvement in research designs.

Autonomic changes during OM meditation

The Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology.

 1995 Oct;39(4):418-20.

Telles S, Nagarathna R, Nagendra HR.

Vivekananda Kendra Yoga Research Foundation, Bangalore.

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The autonomic and respiratory variables were studied in seven experienced meditators (with experience ranging from 5 to 20 years). Each subject was studied in two types of sessions–meditation (with a period of mental chanting of “OM”) and control (with a period of non-targetted thinking). The meditators showed a statistically significant reduction in heart rate during meditation compared to the control period (paired ‘t’ test). During both types of sessions there was a comparable increase in the cutaneous peripheral vascular resistance. Keeping in mind similar results of other authors, this was interpreted as a sign of increased mental alertness, even while being physiologically relaxed (as shown by the reduced heart rate).


Changes in EEG and autonomic nervous activity during meditation

International Journal of Psychophysiology.

2005 Feb;55(2):199-207.

Takahashi T, Murata T, Hamada T, Omori M, Kosaka H, Kikuchi M, Yoshida H, Wada Y.

Department of Neuropsychiatry, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Fukui, Matsuoka-cho, Fukui 910-1193, Japan.

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Meditation is the attainment of a restful yet fully alert physical and mental state practiced by many as a self-regulatory approach to emotion management, but the psychophysiological properties and personality traits that characterize this meditative state have not been adequately studied. We quantitatively analyzed changes in psychophysiological parameters during Zen meditation in 20 normal adults, and evaluated the results in association with personality traits assessed by Cloninger’s Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI). During meditation, increases were observed in fast theta power and slow alpha power on EEG predominantly in the frontal area, whereas an increase in the normalized unit of high-frequency (nuHF) power (as a parasympathetic index) and decreases in the normalized unit of low-frequency (nuLF) power and LF/HF (as sympathetic indices) were observed through analyses of heart rate variability. We analyzed the possible correlations among these changes in terms of the percent change during meditation using the control condition as the baseline. The percent change in slow alpha EEG power in the frontal area, reflecting enhanced internalized attention, was negatively correlated with that in nuLF as well as in LF/HF and was positively correlated with the novelty seeking score (which has been suggested to be associated with dopaminergic activity). The percent change in fast theta power in the frontal area, reflecting enhanced mindfulness, was positively correlated with that in nuHF and also with the harm avoidance score (which has been suggested to be associated with serotonergic activity). These results suggest that internalized attention and mindfulness as two major core factors of behaviors of mind during meditation are characterized by different combinations of psychophysiological properties and personality traits.


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