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Investigating the impact of meditation training on mental health and wellbeing in the ageing population

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - MEDIT-AGEING (Investigating the impact of meditation training on mental health and wellbeing in the ageing population)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-06-30

MEDIT-AGEING investigates the effectiveness of a variety of interventions on ageing, with a key focus on mental health and well-being including Alzheimer’s disease and its mechanisms. Researchers will study expert meditators and will also conduct clinical trials involving patients with existing subjective cognitive decline, and participants from the general public over the age of 65.
The first study (study 1, SCD-Well) will be assessing the effect of a short-term interventions on behavioural measures. Participants will be recruited from memory clinics and will have some level of subjective cognitive decline, so their improvement can be measured along with the intervention. Behavioural measures will be monitored to see how much of a difference can be made to participants’ cognition and wellbeing due to the intervention. This study will be conducted in four centres in four different countries (UK, Germany, Spain and France). The intervention will last for eight weeks and the effects will be measures just after the intervention and 4 months later.
The second study (study 2, Age-Well) will be assessing the effects of 18-month mental training interventions in cognitively intact older adults, and of long-term meditation in expert meditators, on both behavioural and biological measures. These measures will include blood sample analyses, sleep measures and neuroimaging data. The analyses will be split into two parts, the first one comparing data of expert meditators to those of cognitively intact older adults and the second one measuring changes before and after intervention, i.e. between baseline and 18-month follow-up, in the cognitively intact older adults. All data for this study will be collected in a single centre – in Caen, France.
Ethical approval were obtained for the 2 clinical trials. In the SCD-Well study, recruitment, enrollment and data acquisition were performed for 147 patients who were randomised to either the meditation or health education condition. In addition, 137 participants were included and randomized in the Age-Well randomized controlled trial, and the baseline neuroimaging and behavioral data as well as the post-intervention measures were acquired. For SCD-Well, further to the end of patients follow up, all study sites were closed and the end of the study declared to all national competent authorities and ethical committees.
25/30 senior expert meditators were recruited and the meditation and active control interventions were successfully delivered in both studies. Data collection was not completed due to the COVID-19 sanitary crisis, the recruitment period collecting their brain imaging data for a couple of senior expert meditators is extended in autumn 2020.
The acquisition and scoring of lifestyle data from visits 2 (9-month follow-up) and 3 (post-intervention, 18-month follow-up), and the collection of data related to the English intervention were performed. Many analyses from baseline data have already been carried out. Due to COVID-related delays, analyses requiring post-intervention data have been postponed.
The attentional task was administered to the participants in functional MRI (fMRI) at baseline and at follow-up (18-month follow-up) as well as in expert meditators. We finalized the organization of brain imaging data, lined up preprocessing and statistical analyses, and started behavioral analyses on the relationship between meditation style and attention performance.
An emotional fMRI paradigm was validated in an elderly population based on the baseline cross-sectional data from Age-Well (N = 135) and on the comparison of elderly and young participants in a separate study conducted in Geneva (N = 58). The analyses on the relation between emotions and age and Alzheimer’s disease-risk factors based on the cross-sectional Age-Well data are ongoing. Using longitudinal data from the SCD-Well study, we have analysed the impact of meditation vs health education training on measures of compassion. In order to start mapping the relation between the different variables in our psychobiological model, we have prepared a manuscript on emotional responses in the brain based on Age-Well baseline data. In addition, we are working on the relation of cross-sectional data in the domain of emotions and cognition in Age-Well.
To explore the effects of meditation on cognition and wellbeing in relation to ageing and Alzheimer’s Disease, MEDIT-AGEING developed a behavioural assessment battery for both studies. This will allow to identify differences in cognition and wellbeing in senior expert meditators, measure the effects of meditation interventions on cognition and wellbeing in patients with subjective cognitive decline and cognitively intact older adults, identify intrinsic factors (gender, lifestyle and comorbidities) that moderate the effect of meditation on cognition and wellbeing, and finally determine relationships between meditation effects on cognition and wellbeing, as well as neural signatures and mechanisms of attentional and emotional control. Findings from baseline analyses from both studies and longitudinal analyses from SCD-Well are on-going with part of them being already disseminated. The consortium also created cognitive composite measures for both studies.
Finally, MEDIT-AGEING actively disseminated the objectives and outcomes of the project. A lot of analyses are being made by PhD students and led to the submission of several abstracts to the Alzheimer’s Association International conference 2020, with 6 accepted presentations. Eight papers were already published and a number of manuscripts are in preparation. In addition, MEDIT-AGEING organized and promoted a public mental health conference in Berlin with the Lifebrain Project, and publicized key project actions and milestones.
As life expectancy increases, the number of people affected by age-related conditions increases too. This can include mental health problems such as Alzheimer’s Disease, memory loss and dementia.Research is needed to identify the determinants of health into later life. Our findings will contribute to important discussions around safeguarding quality of life for more of the population, informing healthcare providers and policy makers on interventions to help reduce the cost/care burden on health services caused by age-associated diseases.
MEDIT-AGEING is expected to result in:
- Improved therapeutic management of older adults affected by mental conditions and disorders.
- Maintenance of cognitive abilities of older people.
- Establishment of preventive strategies favouring the mental dimension of healthy ageing.
- Reduction of the negative impact of mental disorders on comorbidities.
- MEDIT-AGEING improving innovation capacity and integration of new knowledge
MEDIT-AGING is the first project to comprehensively study the short and long-term cognitive, emotional, and biological correlates and the efficacy of meditation within one multidisciplinary consortium. Novel mechanisms will be identified in a model condition (meditation experts) and in association with AD-risk factors in cognitively intact older adults. Our aim is to contribute to better-designed international prevention programs, sustainable policies on long-term care, and guidelines on promoting mental wellbeing of the ageing population. Understanding the determinants of wellbeing in ageing will also contribute to the development of age-friendly services and settings.