Study reveals association between meditation, immune system changes

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A large-scale genomic study recently revealed robust activation of the immune system is associated with advanced meditation.

The study was published in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America). Several studies on the impact of yoga and meditation on mental and physical health have demonstrated beneficial effects. However, the potential molecular mechanisms and critical genes involved in this beneficial outcome have yet to be comprehensively elucidated.

This study identified and characterised the transcriptional programme associated with advanced meditation practice, and we ‘bio-informatically’ integrated various networks to identify meditation-specific core network.

This core network links several immune signalling pathways, and the authors showed that this core transcriptional profile is dysfunctional in multiple sclerosis and severe Covid-19 infection.

The researchers demonstrated that the meditative practice enhanced immune function without activating inflammatory signals. Together, these results make meditation an effective behavioural intervention for treating various conditions associated with a weakened immune system.

Genomic and bioinformatic analysis on blood samples from 106 volunteers, around 40 years of age, participated in an intensive Samyama meditation retreat, which included spending 8 days in complete silence with more than 10 hours of meditation each day.

The analysis revealed increased expression after meditation of 220 genes tied to immunity, including 68 genes tied to interferon signaling, but no change in the expression of inflammatory genes.

This arouses the unverified possibility that meditation might serve as a beneficial component in behavioral interventions for conditions marked by weakened immunity, according to the authors.