This month, I am describing some research that is quite profound as it is the first scientific evidence of genetic and molecular changes in the body as a result of mindfulness meditation. http://www.news.wisc.edu/22370
The study investigated selected genetic and molecular effects of 8 hours of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators, compared to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in 8 hours of quiet, non-meditative activities.
The research was led by Richard J. Davidson, PhD, who is a renowned neuroscientist and one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of contemplative practices, such as meditation, on the brain. He is the founder and chair of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The research found that after 8 hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a reduced level of pro-inflammatory genes. This is good!
Now, if you are interested, here is the biology (from a non-biologist:) ). Each cell in our body contains 25,000 to 35,000 genes. Each gene has a job to do which involves making proteins to help our bodies grow, stay strong and be healthy. However, we know that this isn’t always the case as some of our genes may produce products that influence ill health and disease. In the end, we know that we can’t change our genes, however, this research suggests there is something that can influence how genes express themselves.
There are genes in the body that are known to promote inflammation and it turns out, the research found that the meditators showed a “down-regulation” of genes that are implicated in inflammation in the body. In other words, they don’t express themselves as much and fewer products that promote inflammation are produced.
To quote Richard Davidson, the lead author, he said “Our genes are quite dynamic in their expression and these results suggest that the calmness of our mind can actually have a potential influence on their expression”.
This research is significant as Davidson suggests that this is the first research reported of this nature.
This research complements other genetic research in people that have shown dynamic positive genetic responses to various stimuli including stress, diet, and and exercise.