Efficacy of a lovingkindness meditation intervention

Wren, A. A., et al. (2019). Preliminary efficacy of a lovingkindness meditation intervention for patients undergoing biopsy and breast cancer surgery: A randomized controlled pilot study. Supportive Care in Cancer, pp. 1-10. From Abstract.

Purpose: Despite more women undergoing treatment for breast cancer and increased survival rates, many women suffer from anxiety and physical symptoms (e.g., pain, fatigue) surrounding diagnosis and surgery. Research investigating the efficacy of psychosocial interventions for breast cancer patients during this period is limited. This randomized controlled pilot study examined the effect of a brief lovingkindness meditation intervention on these key outcomes.

Results: Multilevel modeling analyses demonstrated that lovingkindness meditation significantly improved pain, self-compassion, and heart rate over time compared to control conditions. There was a trend for anxiety. Music significantly improved pain compared to usual care.

Meditation and quality of life in people with MS

Levin, A.B., Hadgkiss, E.J., Weiland, T.K., Jelinek, G.J. (2014). Meditation as an Adjunct to the Management of Multiple Sclerosis. Neurology Research International. Full text.

From the Abstract. To explore the association between band health related quality of life (HRQOL), depression, fatigue, disability level, relapse rates and disease activity in a large international sample of people with multiple sclerosis.

Participants were invited to take part in an online survey and answer questions relating to HRQOL, depression, fatigue, disability, relapse rates and their involvement in meditation practises.

Statistically and potentially clinically significant differences between those who meditated once a week or more, and participants who never meditated were present for mean mental health composite scores, cognitive function scale and health perception scale. … Physical health composite scores were higher in those that meditated, however, the differences were probably not clinically significant. Among those who meditated, fewer screened positive for depression, but there was no relationship with fatigue or relapse rate. Those with worsened disability levels were more likely to meditate.

Interventions with fatigue in neurological disorders (review)

Immink, M. A. (2014). Fatigue in neurological disorders: a review of self-regulation and mindfulness-based interventions. Fatigue: Biomedicine, Health & Behavior, (ahead-of-print), 1-17.

From the AbstractFatigue is prevalent in neurological disorders and is associated with increased disability and mortality rates. Currently, clinical assessment and management of fatigue is difficult as underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood.

This narrative review integrates models of pathological fatigue with the concepts of self-regulation and mindfulness. Findings from clinical trials testing the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) for fatigue in neurological disorders are also reviewed.

Recent definitions and models of pathological fatigue suggest that neurological disorders might instigate maladaptive changes in self-regulation leading to difficulties in sustaining movement and disproportionate levels of perceived effort. MBI might be effective in the management of fatigue since mindfulness training is thought to promote self-regulation by developing attention control and cognitive and emotional flexibility. Findings from a small number of clinical trials provide limited support for the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions for fatigue in neurological disorders.

Further research is … needed to test the efficacy of MBI including large randomised controlled trials with active control conditions and which directly assess changes in mindfulness along with fatigue.

May help to improve cancer-related cognitive dysfunction

Biegler, K. A., Alejandro Chaoul, M., & Cohen, L. (2009). Cancer, cognitive impairment, and meditation. Acta Oncologica, 48(1), 18-26. Full text.

Background and objectives. Cancer-related cognitive impairment has been acknowledged as a substantial limiting factor in quality of life among cancer patients and survivors. In addition to deficits on behavioral measures, abnormalities in neurologic structure and function have been reported. In this paper, we review findings from the literature on cognitive impairment and cancer, potential interventions, meditation and cognitive function, and meditation and cancer. In addition, we offer our hypotheses on how meditation practice may help to alleviate objective and subjective cognitive function, as well as the advantages of incorporating a meditation program into the treatment of cancer patients and survivors for cancer-related cognitive deficits.

Findings. Various factors have been hypothesized to play a role in cancer-related cognitive impairment including chemotherapy, reduced hormone levels, proinflammatory immune response, fatigue, and distress. Pharmacotherapies such as methylphenidate or modafinil have been suggested to alleviate cognitive deficits. While initial reports suggest they are effective, some pharmacotherapies have side effects and may not relieve other symptoms associated with multimodal cancer treatment including sleep disturbance, nausea and pain. Several recent studies investigating the effects of meditation programs have reported behavioral and corresponding neurophysiological modulations that may be particularly effective in alleviating cancer-related cognitive impairment. Such programs also have been shown to reduce stress, fatigue, nausea and pain, and improve mood and sleep quality.

Conclusions. With the increasing success of cancer treatment and the ability to return to previous family, social, and work activities, symptom management and quality of life are an essential part of survivorship. We propose that meditation may help to improve cancer-related cognitive dysfunction, alleviate other cancer-related sequelae, and should be fully investigated as an adjuvant to cancer treatment.

Increases self-compassion in health care professionals

Boellinghaus, I., Jones, F. W., & Hutton, J. (2012). The Role of Mindfulness and Loving-Kindness Meditation in Cultivating Self-Compassion and Other-Focused Concern in Health Care Professionals. Mindfulness, 1-10. Full text.

Abstract: Therapists and other health professionals might benefit from interventions that increase their self-compassion and other-focused concern since these may strengthen their relationships with clients, reduce the chances of empathetic distress fatigue and burnout and increase their well-being.

This article aimed to review the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) and loving-kindness mediation (LKM) in cultivating clinicians’ self-compassion and other-focused concern. Despite methodological limitations, the studies reviewed offer some support to the hypothesis that MBIs can increase self-compassion in health professionals, but provide a more mixed picture with regard to MBIs’ affect on other-focused concern. The latter finding may in part be due to ceiling effects; therefore future research, employing more sensitive measures, would be beneficial.

Turning to LKM, there is encouraging preliminary evidence from non-clinician samples that LKM, or courses including LKM and related practices, can increase self-compassion and other-focused concern. As well as extending the LKM evidence base to health professionals and using more robust, large-scale designs, future research could usefully seek to identify the characteristics of people who find LKM challenging and the supports necessary to teach them LKM safely.

Short-term meditation training can improve attention

Tang, Y. Y., et al. (2007). Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(43), 17152-17156. Full text.

Recent studies suggest that months to years of intensive and systematic meditation training can improve attention. However, the lengthy training required has made it difficult to use random assignment of participants to conditions to confirm these findings. This article shows that a group randomly assigned to 5 days of meditation practice with the integrative body–mind training method shows significantly better attention and control of stress than a similarly chosen control group given relaxation training.

The training method comes from traditional Chinese medicine and incorporates aspects of other meditation and mindfulness training. Compared with the control group, the experimental group of 40 undergraduate Chinese students given 5 days of 20-min  integrative training showed greater improvement in conflict scores on the Attention Network Test, lower anxiety, depression, anger, and fatigue, and higher vigor on the Profile of Mood States scale, a significant decrease in stress-related cortisol, and an increase in immunoreactivity.

These results provide a convenient method for studying the influence of meditation by using experimental and control methods similar to those used to test drugs or other interventions.