Research has suggested for some time that psychosocial interventions like meditation reduce the adverse effects of caregiver stress on physical and mental health. However, the pathways by which such psychosocial interventions impact biological processes are poorly understood.
In the study, the participants were randomized into two groups. The meditation group was taught the 12-minute yogic practice that included Kirtan Kriya, which was performed every day at the same time for eight weeks. The other group was asked to relax in a quiet place with their eyes closed while listening to instrumental music on a relaxation CD, also for 12 minutes daily for eight weeks. Blood samples were taken at the beginning of the study and again at the end of the eight weeks.
"The goal of the study was to determine if meditation might alter the activity of inflammatory and antiviral proteins that shape immune cell gene expression," said Lavretsky. "Our analysis showed a reduced activity of those proteins linked directly to increased inflammation.
"This is encouraging news. Caregivers often don’t have the time, energy, or contacts that could bring them a little relief from the stress of taking care of a loved one with dementia, so practicing a brief form of yogic meditation, which is easy to learn, is a useful too."
Lavretsky is a member of UCLA’s recently launched Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Program, which provides comprehensive, coordinated care as well as resources and support to patients and their caregivers. Lavretsky has incorporated yoga practice into the caregiver program.
Funding for the study was provided by the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation in Tucson, Ariz. Other authors of the study included David S. Black, Steve Cole, Michael R. Irwin, Elizabeth Breen, Natalie M. St. Cyr, Nora Nazarian, all of UCLA, and Dharma S. Khalsa, medical director for the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation in Tucson. The authors report no conflict of interest.
The UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences is the home within the David Geffen School of Medicine for faculty who are expert in the origins of and treatments for disorders of complex human behavior. It is part of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, a world leading, interdisciplinary research and education institute devoted to the understanding of complex human behavior and the causes and consequences of neuropsychiatric disorders.