DIGITAL MEDICINE

Synopsis

This was the first study to investigate neurological and cardiovascular responses during meditation in both novice and experienced meditators using wearable, wireless devices. The study found that meditation practice produced variable but characteristic EEG changes which were significantly different from baseline, even among novice meditators on the first day.

Overview

In this published study, The Chopra Foundation, The Chopra Center and researchers at Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI), including Eric Topol, MD and Steven Steinhubl, MD, studied the effects of a 6-day meditation retreat on various parameters of the cardiovascular system, including blood pressure, heart rate and heart rate variability, as well as the effects on brain waves via wireless cardiac and EEG monitoring. This is the first study to investigate neurological and cardiovascular responses during meditation in both novice and experienced meditators using novel, wearable, wireless devices. This study was able to show that meditation led to significant, measureable EEG changes even in individuals just beginning a meditation practice. The most distinct, and reliable finding however was that meditation was associated with a small, but statistically significant decrease in blood pressure in a normotensive population. You can access the published study below.
 
There exists a strong mind-heart connection, although it remains poorly understood, therefore this study was conducted to better understand this connection. The critical nature of this connection is exemplified by stress-induced cardiomyopathy (Takutsubo cardiomyopathy), the effects on the heart with acute brain injury, and the heightened cardiovascular risk associated with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems. Many of these interactions are believed to be mediated by the autonomic nervous system, which evidence suggests can be influenced through meditation. However, greater widespread acceptance of meditation as a potentially important tool for improving population health and wellness is hampered by the limited data available defining its benefits. In addition, understanding how that response can influence cardiovascular function could help guide nonpharmacologic treatments of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disorders. This study examined individual variations to meditation through continuous monitoring of EEG, blood pressure, heartrate and its variability (HRV) in novice and experienced meditators and produced varied inter-individual physiologic responses. These results support the need for further investigation of the short and long term cardiovascular effects of mental calm and individualized ways to achieve it.
 

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