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Brain Health With Inner Engineering Meditation

Meditation has been linked to improved brain health and lower brain age. Brain age has been successfully estimated from structural MRI and more recently, EEG Sleep data using Brain Age Index (BAI) derived by machine learning algorithms. Patients with significant neurological or psychiatric disease exhibit a mean excess BAI of about 4 years. Higher BAI is a predictor of mortality. Long term meditation has been associated with lower Brain Age in MRI studies. However, the EEG sleep measure of Brain Age has not been reported in meditators.

This project aims to quantify the progressive impact of meditation on brain age. If established objectively, meditation-based interventions could offer safe, affordable and accessible solutions to promote younger and healthier brains and will have invaluable health and financial implications.

The goal of this project is twofold:

In alignment with the recent NCCIH emphasis, we propose this study to combine neuroimaging with other non-neural modalities to delineate the impact of meditation on brain health and overall physiology and to identify objective neural biomarkers to assess meditation-based interventions which could be further used in clinical applications.
It is estimated that by 2050, an unprecedented 18% of the world's population will be above 65 years of age. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), aging is the most significant risk factor of many chronic conditions including age-related neurodegenerative diseases, which severely impact the quality of life, healthcare and social costs. The total healthcare cost of Alzheimer's disease in 2020 was estimated at $305 billion and expected to rise to $1 trillion soon. NIA's 5 year strategy highlights the crucial need to better understand the aging brain and develop interventions to address age-related neurological conditions.

The study intervention is a multi-component 21-minute meditation called Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya. It is taught at the Inner Engineering program offered by non-profit Isha Foundation as online as well as in-person formats. It incorporates a combination of different breathing patterns and meditative components. The intervention training provides precise, step by step and easy to follow instructions on how to perform this practice. Performed in a seated posture, this is a simple, safe and accessible intervention that requires no previous experience of meditation. The intervention selected for this study was shown to significantly reduce perceived stress, enhance self-reported general well-being, improve positive emotions, mindfulness, sleep, engagement, relationships and may promote enhanced Heart Rate Variability and Sympathovagal balance. The control group will be selected to be age, gender and education level matched with the intervention group and will be asked to continue their daily routine.