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

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - MEDIT-AGEING (Investigating the impact of meditation training on mental health and wellbeing in the ageing population)

Reporting period: 2020-07-01 to 2021-06-30

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.
The SCD-Well study is now closed. Recruitment, enrollment and data acquisition were performed for 147 patients who were randomised to either the meditation or health education condition. 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. The AGE-WELL clinical protocol as well as study documentation was amended and approved by National Competent Authorities and Ethical Committees as requested by national laws and regulations. The monitoring activities were performed with the joint involvement of the Sponsor project manager, CRA and site staff to ensure data quality.
In addition, 26 out of 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 2021.
Despite delays in accessing and analysing data, particularly for Age-Well follow-up data, several papers have been submitted or are in preparation. Part of the results were presented in July 2020 at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC 2020). Other ongoing works have been submitted for AAIC 2021, held virtually in July 2021, and were presented as poster or oral communications.
Additional work was done in relation to the development of the Age-Well ancillary study on COVID-19-related confinements and the collection/scoring of the corresponding data. A battery of questionnaires was designed to assess lifestyle and well-being during the different periods of the pandemic, including during lockdowns periods. Data analyses are currently ongoing.
Pipelines for fMRI data analyses have also been implemented and are nearly finalized. We have contributed to manuscripts on the effect of interventions in the SCD-well study and baseline data on AGE-WELL. These manuscripts are published (Marchant et al., 2021), submitted for publication (Schlosser et al.) or in preparation. Following the validation of the novel fMRI paradigm in an elderly population based on the baseline cross-sectional data from AGE-WELL (N = 135) and based on the comparison of elderly and young participants in a separate study conducted in Geneva (N = 58), the two datasets are currently combined in one manuscript for Nature Aging, thanks to the collaborative work of several work packages (WP3, WP4, WP5, and WP6). Further analyses on the relation between emotion-related brain responses and age and AD-risk factors based on the cross-sectional AGE-WELL data are also being carried out in collaboration with WP4, WP5 and WP6.
Using longitudinal data from the SCD-WELL study, we have analysed the impact of meditation vs health education training on measures of compassion and lifestyle. In addition, we are currently also analysing longitudinal data from the AGE-WELL trial to test the impact of the trainings on changes self-reported emotions and brain.

Finally, MEDIT-AGEING continues to actively communicate and disseminate the project’s achievements and outcomes. Newsletters are regularly sent to growing network database of European stakeholders and an online ‘public’ meeting was held on 16th June 2021.
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.