Mind & Body Research

Opinions and experiences of qigong from people with multiple sclerosis though focus groups

Principal Investigator: Lita Buttolph, PhD, DSOM, MS (NUNM)
Co-Investigators: Heather Zwickey, PhD (NUNM); Ryan Bradley, ND, MPH (NUNM); Lindsey Wooliscroft, MD, MS (OHSU); Gloria Yeh, MD, MS (Harvard); Jamie Villanueva, DAOM (UW); Heena Manglani, PhD (Harvard)
Research Assistant: Tanya Snyder, BS (NUNM)

The purpose of this study is to conduct focus groups of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) who practice qigong or tai chi to understand if and how they benefit from these practices, and to gather opinions about designing a qigong research study for people with MS.  Aims include understanding how qigong can benefit people with MS who have a regular practice; characterizing forms that are safe, feasible and efficacious in improving MS symptoms; identifying key factors that promote effective learning and maximize benefits of qigong; and identifying key components necessary for conducting a clinical trial of qigong for MS.

Identifying key components of a qigong intervention for multiple sclerosis

Principal Investigator: Lita Buttolph, PhD, DSOM, MS (NUNM)
Co-Investigators: Heather Zwickey, PhD (NUNM); Ryan Bradley, ND, MPH (NUNM); Lindsey Wooliscroft, MD, MS (OHSU); Gloria Yeh, MD, MPH (Harvard); Jamie Villanueva, DAOM (UW); Tasha Parman, DPT (UW)

This study identifies key components of a qigong intervention for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) by surveying researchers, clinicians and qigong instructors with experience working with or teaching people with MS. Aims include identifying qigong forms, movements, and learning environments that are feasible, safe, and efficacious in improving motor and non-motor symptoms for people with MS.  Results will be used to inform a clinical trial of qigong for MS.

Neurophysiological correlates of Sustained Interoceptive Awareness

Principal Investigator: Dana Dharmakaya Colgan, PhD
Co-PI: Cynthia Price, PhD

This study aims to investigate neurophysiological correlates of sustained interoceptive awareness and assess change within neurophysiological, psychophysiological, and self-reported variables during sustained interoceptive awareness with therapist-assisted touch, when compared without therapist-assisted touch. Results are expected to identify neurophysiological correlates of sustained interoceptive awareness in advanced meditators and inform the optimization of interoceptive training for maximal health benefits.

Preoperative Predictors of Postneurosurgical Pain Outcomes

Principal Investigator: Dana Dharmakaya Colgan, PhD
Co-PI: Katie Schenning, MD

This study aims to investigate modifiable preoperative predictors of postneurosurgical pain outcomes in older adults. Participants will undergo pre- and post-operative neurocognitive testing and interviews for functional and patient-reported outcomes, including interoceptive awareness and symptoms of central sensitization. Results are expected to inform future preoperative interventions to improve postneurosurgical pain outcomes among older adults.

Interoception and Cortical Reactivity in Response to Lab-Based Pain

Principal Investigator: Dana Dharmakaya Colgan, PhD
Co-PI: Barry Oken, MD, PhD

This study is investigating relationships among interoceptive awareness and neurophysiological processes (i.e., pain related evoked potentials) in response to lab-based pain. Results are expected to increase our understanding of the role of top-down processes of interoceptive awareness on central pain processing.

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

Principal Investigators: Erica Sharpe, PhD, Ryan Bradley, ND, MPH 
Co-Investigators: Anuja Chhabra, PhD, Ben Zimmerman, PhD

We are currently building on our recent pranayama study (NCT#03280589), which investigated the impact of Sheetali and Sheetkari practices on heart rate variability (PMID: 34271528), by measuring effects of these practices on endothelial function (via EndoPAT device). This pilot trial will include n=6 participants and involves three breathing exercises (Sheetali, Sheetkari, and Deep Breathing). This work is an important investigation into the mechanistic effects of breathing practices used to maintain healthy blood pressure.

Yoga practices for the treatment of Muscle Treatment Dysphonia: A Delphi panel study

Principal Investigator: Anuja Chhabra, PhD
Advisors/Co-PIs: Ryan Bradley, ND, MPH (NUNM), Julie Barkmeier-Kraemer, PhD (University of Utah), Maria Dietrich, PhD (University of Bonn), Heather Zwickey, PhD (NUNM)

About 28,000,000 US workers experience voice related issues every day, and missed workdays with voice treatment expenses in teachers alone costs the US economy $2.5 billion annually. Muscle Tension Dysphonia is a common voice disorder characterized by absence of structural abnormalities, and accompanied by excessive tension in the laryngeal musculature. Research based on yoga based approaches has shown improvement in acoustic and aerodynamic measures of healthy voice indicating increased respiratory-phonatory efficiency with application in treatment of Muscle Tension Dysphonia. Yoga poses and breathing exercises can focus on precise spinal positioning optimized for respiration and phonation. Yoga-based treatment has shown to reduce muscular tension in chronic neck pain populations. Yoga’s successful application in its symptom resolution provides a promising rationale for its application in the treatment of Muscle Tension Dysphonia symptoms.

The objective of this study is to identify key ingredients or components of a yoga research protocol for people with Muscle Tension Dysphonia using an Online Delphi panel survey study. This study aims to achieve consensus from an expert panel of yoga teachers and therapists who have been working in the field for 10+ years and have experience in treatment of health related issues. The study will be completed in 3-5 rounds of surveys to reach consensus. The final goal of this work is to generate and publish an expert consensus based list of key yoga practices of relevance in the treatment of Muscle Tension Dysphonia.

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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