Mind & Body Research

A Closer Look at Yoga Nidra: Sleep Lab Analyses

Principal Investigator: Erica Sharpe, PhD 

This research study investigated the effects of a mind/body practice called yoga nidra on brainwave patterns, heart rate variability, and respiratory rate as possible indicators of the ability of this practice to induce sleep. Yoga nidra is a meditation technique, and one of the easiest yoga practices to develop and maintain.

Participants, ages 18-45, with trouble sleeping, completed two study visits at the Helfgott Research Institute. During visits, they completed questionnaires, practiced Yoga Nidra, and were monitored by three instruments. The study was completed in March, 2019 and data analysis is currently underway.

The Effect of Respiration Rate during Pranayama Practice on the Autonomic Nervous System

Principal Investigator: Alison Lacombe, PhD

Breathing techniques are commonly advocated for relaxation, stress management and wellness. In yoga practice the term “Pranayama” refers to the conscious regulation of breath and is postulated to have specific physiological effects. This study investigated the relationship between Pranayama and relaxation. Physiological markers of the autonomic nervous system (heart rate variability and EEG) were measuring during deep breathing practices and compared to a control group. The study data is currently being analyzed.

Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction for Multiple Sclerosis

Principal Investigator: Angela Senders, ND, MCR

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common neurological condition affecting adults under 50 in the United States. MS symptoms are diverse and unpredictable and include impaired mobility, chronic pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is an eight-week evidence-based mindfulness program that includes meditation, group discussion, and education on the relationship between mindfulness, stress and wellness. Years of research show that MBSR is effective in treating stress, anxiety, pain, fatigue and improving overall quality of life.

This study was designed to assess the feasibility of utilizing MBSR for people with MS, and to evaluate the efficacy of MBSR compared to an education control group. The MBSR group attended an eight-week MBSR program consisting of weekly two-hour classes. Participants were instructed in mindfulness meditation, breath work, yoga postures, self-reflection and awareness. The control group attended an eight-week series that utilized educational material provided by the National MS Society including such topics as medications and supplements, fatigue, pain and financial planning, as well as facilitated discussions and the viewing of documentaries about stress, mood and self-efficacy. The control group was not instructed in any mindfulness-based education.

Results indicated that MBSR is a feasible intervention for MS – participants were successfully enrolled and most completed the majority of study visits and activities. Symptoms such as perceived stress, anxiety, depression and fatigue improved in both MBSR and control groups, along with tests of cognitive processing. However, differences in improvement between the groups was not statistically significant. More research is needed to study the impact of mindfulness-based training for emotional health in patients with MS.

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Magnets and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Principal Investigator: Agatha Colbert, MD

It is estimated that between 1 and 3 percent of Americans suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). Therapeutic magnets are being used as a self-help treatment by many sufferers of CTS, and despite the widespread use of permanent magnets limited data on their safety and efficacy is available. Only two research studies have tested whether magnets are indeed helpful for this condition, and they produced contradictory results.

The objective of this pilot study was to determine the feasibility of recruiting and retaining CTS participants for a therapeutic magnet study, obtain data on the effectiveness and safety of active magnets and controls and explore whether nerve recovery occurs as a result of therapeutic magnet use. 60 participants wore either a therapeutic magnet that was one of two different strengths or a non-magnetic disc (control) to bed nightly for 6 weeks. Participants then responded to a questionnaire regarding the severity of CTS symptoms.

Results indicated that there were no significant differences in symptom severity when comparing the intervention groups to the control group. However, each of the three groups, including the control, showed improvement in symptoms over the 6-week trial period. Future studies are needed to resolve issues related to the use of controls in the trials and to optimize magnetic strength to maximize effectiveness.

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