An Update from the Research Team – August 2022

Summer is an amazing time on the UCSD campus. The pace slows a bit as the campus empties of students heading off to summer vacation, but it is also a time when many students from different places join the laboratory for summer research opportunities. This summer we had around ten students rotate through the laboratory from local high schools, various universities across the country, and several visiting scholars from different countries. This presented a unique opportunity to educate these new individuals on meditation and the research we were doing as many of them were unaware of the possibilities. The students were astonished by the data, and some participated in ongoing analyses of various samples generated from the various events.

 The latest data…

The research group has collected a tremendous amount of data this past year at various meditation events. Most of these are large data sets that will take time to sort through. A priority has been the analysis from the QUANTUM study that launched in Marco Island in January 2022. An early look at the potential of what QUANTUM represents was nothing short of exciting and groundbreaking (i.e., at least 18 diseases with more than 30 subjects represented, approximately 800 matched samples before and after a week-long event, and multiple readouts on nearly 1000 people).

As we sift through the data, this early excitement continues to grow as the potential is possibly limitless with what we may be able to learn about the individual and collective meditative experience. I have presented data already at a few events on the impact of meditation on cancer. In brief, the data shows that individuals with cancer have a dramatic improvement in the self-reported assessment of their health following a week-long workshop and this was mirrored by positive changes in their gut. After the event, the cancer subjects look more like the healthy controls in many ways, in both mind and body. To be able to show this level of change in seven days is astounding. Two enzymes that showed changes in seven days in the gut microbiome were an increase in chorismate mutase (which regulates anti-cancer/anti-bacterial effects) and a decrease in HAD hydrolase (which regulates resistance to cancer treatment). This would suggest that cancer treatment could be primed by a meditative experience to get the most benefit from traditional therapies like chemotherapy or radiation. The core at UCSD is nearly done sequencing the microbiome samples, and we expect in a few weeks to have deeper insights into the gut microbiome changes in anxiety/depression, hypothyroidism, and PTSD with respect to meditation as medicine.

In addition to the microbiome work, we have been working with a group at Harvard to unravel the Garmin data (i.e., heart rate variability [HRV], heart rate, sleep, activity, stress, etc.). We are focusing initially on the 7-day event but will expand to time points after the event as the impressive community of subjects from our QUANTUM study continue to send us more and more data. The initial pilot analysis reveals changes in HRV that are not what you would expect with traditional, relaxation-based meditations. The data is leading to deeper insights into the experience at Dr. Joe’s events and on first look, it suggests it is nothing like a normal meditative experience. The interest for the research group now is to see if this uniqueness is what leads to dramatic stories of transformation. We are constantly thinking about how best to study and approach this observation and opportunity…stay tuned for some out-of-the-box studies to come.

When will the research team be at future events?

The end of the summer and late fall will be a very busy time for the research team. In addition to continuing to analyze the large amounts of data captured, they will continue to launch new studies to enhance our understanding of how meditation impacts the individual and community. The next big research event will be at the AFU in Marco Island at the end of August. The primary focus will be the MYSTIC Study (Mind Yielding Signals Transforming Internal Components). An open question in the field has been, “What does one achieve or augment biologically when an intense emotional/creative/euphoric experience is achieved (i.e., sustained alpha, theta, and gamma wave electrical activity in the brain)?”

We randomly recruited subjects at the Marco Island event this week to be brain mapped during a meditation followed by immediate and 18–24-hour post biospecimen collection. The goal is to independently analyze the brain’s electrical activity and determine if specific activities relate to specific changes in factors in the blood, and ultimate disease modulation in the laboratory setting. This will start to unravel the process by which meditation, specific brain activity, and specific individuals affect a biological change. This understanding we hope will lead to insights into enhancing the meditative experience of individuals in the future. Additional, smaller, and continuing studies will also be performed in Marco Island with the random event generators, coherence healings, and follow-up collection from the QUANTUM study which began in January.

The research team is planning a large study that will take place during the Orlando week-long event in November. The goal is to undertake QUANTUM 2.0 to recruit an additional 1000 humans meditating and expand on the collections from the original QUANTUM to include blood as well as video capture to assess changes in transformative language, facial muscles, and analysis of voice. These endpoints continue to probe deeper aspects of the meditative experience to help to build a better, more exhaustive and comprehensive database for understanding the potential of meditation and how it impacts human resilience. We hope to see you at a future event and hope you will consider being a research subject.

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