What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices

Author: imageIvana Buric 1,2*, imageMiguel Farias 1, imageJonathan Jong 1, imageChristopher Mee 3 and imageInti A. Brazil 1,2,4,5
Affiliation: 1Brain, Belief, and Behaviour Lab, Centre for Psychology, Behaviour, and Achievement, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Coventry University, Coventry, United Kingdom 2Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands 3Centre for Applied Biological and Exercise Sciences, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Coventry University, Coventry, United Kingdom 4Forensic Psychiatric Centre Pompestichting, Nijmegen, Netherlands 5Collaborative Antwerp Psychiatric Research Institute, Antwerp University, Antwerp, Belgium
Conference/Journal: Front. Immunol.
Date published: 2017 Jun 16
Other: Special Notes: https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2017.00670 , Word Count: 235

There is considerable evidence for the effectiveness of mind–body interventions (MBIs) in improving mental and physical health, but the molecular mechanisms of these benefits remain poorly understood. One hypothesis is that MBIs reverse expression of genes involved in inflammatory reactions that are induced by stress. This systematic review was conducted to examine changes in gene expression that occur after MBIs and to explore how these molecular changes are related to health. We searched PubMed throughout September 2016 to look for studies that have used gene expression analysis in MBIs (i.e., mindfulness, yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, relaxation response, and breath regulation). Due to the limited quantity of studies, we included both clinical and non-clinical samples with any type of research design. Eighteen relevant studies were retrieved and analyzed. Overall, the studies indicate that these practices are associated with a downregulation of nuclear factor kappa B pathway; this is the opposite of the effects of chronic stress on gene expression and suggests that MBI practices may lead to a reduced risk of inflammation-related diseases. However, it is unclear how the effects of MBIs compare to other healthy interventions such as exercise or nutrition due to the small number of available studies. More research is required to be able to understand the effects of MBIs at the molecular level.

Keywords: gene expression, meditation, yoga, mind–body, nuclear factor kappa B, inflammation, stress, conserved transcriptional response to adversity