An Update from the Research Team – November 2022
As we move into the final quarter of the year, it is a time to reflect on our year of research, and what we have to look forward to in the future. As always, my laboratory at UCSD is so grateful for your support. We could not have done the amazing research this past year without you and could not look boldly ahead to transform the role of meditation in healthcare without your continued support for our future research projects; projects we strive to think outside the box with, to develop deep insights into the mind-body connection with, and to develop a better understanding of how meditation impacts disease and health.
The year in review…
January started off with the launch of the QUANTUM (QUest to ANalyze a Thousand hUmans Meditating) Study (which we now refer to as QUANTUM 1.0). The mega pace and scope of our transformative research continue, as I write to you, we have just concluded our study QUANTUM 2.0 in Orlando. It seems like decades have passed since the start of QUANTUM 1.0, but it has only been 10 months, and in that short period of time the results have been mind-boggling. As I think about the barriers that research progress faces – namely financial resources to undertake and complete studies – I am convinced that a big component of our rapid discoveries are a direct result of your support.
We have just completed the metagenomic sequencing of nearly 1600 microbiome samples, with each sample generating about ~5000 data points, giving us nearly 8,000,000 data points across the study subjects to consider. The samples were submitted to us in February, and in the time since, we have cataloged them and now begins the work of integrating and interpreting the results. We performed an early look at cancer with astonishing conclusions that individuals could see a transformative change in their self-reported health in the seven days after a week-long retreat, and that this was completely supported by biological data from their gut microbiome shifting to look more like healthy individuals.
We will now be able to look at 17 additional diseases represented in QUANTUM with a high subject representation (>30 subjects) and 29 rarer conditions (<30 subjects) to think globally about more than 45 diseases in a single study with a single focus on how meditation impacts human health and potential. As we have described it, this data is groundbreaking and has the power to transform lives. With QUANTUM 2.0 this will only grow in magnitude, scope, and the potential life-changing implications we hope to unravel. Given the depth of this study, it will take us quite a lot of funding, time, and effort to put the findings together for a published study.
The remainder of the year continued to be busy with the launch of the GENESIS (GEnerating NEw inSights into genetIc Signatures) study in April in San Diego, consisting of three separate studies looking at twins, the power of the mind to alter genes, and the starting of collecting breast milk samples (before and after the week-long) to better understand how meditation may alter the mother-child relationship through milk components. We have been invited to submit the twin’s study for a peer-reviewed publication in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry as part of a special issue on “Advances in Brain Dynamics in the Healthy and Psychiatric Disorders.” We are hoping to have all the data analyzed, and the manuscript completed for submission and review by the end of the year and expect it to then go through the manuscript review process.
So far, the quantitative electroencephalograph (qEEG) data show amazing overlap in the electrical activity of the twins, most notably when one is meditating, and the other is listening to a boring documentary, with the meditating twin guiding the brain activity for both. Similar changes were seen in the heart rate variability measures in the twin sets when they were separated. This data is an early suggestion that connected individuals may continue to show deep connection during an intense emotional event (on the part of one individual) when they are separated. We are now looking at the molecular changes in the blood, which will all be included in the larger manuscript. The ramification of this simple study opens up so many questions in my mind – questions we will be probing in the coming years in newly designed studies.
We also undertook and completed the IMAGINE (Integrating MAGnetic Imaging with rich pheNotypE) study in San Diego where we performed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), qEEG, biometrics, and blood factor measurements on 20 study participants (9 novice and 11 experienced meditators) before and after a week-long meditation event. The fMRI analysis is nearly complete and shows interesting changes during the week and between the different experienced states. We are currently working on additional components to integrate a better understanding of how the mind changes and impacts the body in unique ways. The goal is to submit this paper for publication in the early half of 2023.
The MYSTIC Study (Mind Yielding Signals Transforming Internal Components) launched in full force at the Advanced Follow Up in Marco Island in August. MYSTIC continued at the Dallas week-long in October and is expected to continue well into 2023 with the goal of reaching our target subject population of 500 individuals. MYSTIC is designed to independently analyze the brain’s electrical activity and determine if specific activities related to specific changes in blood factors and ultimate disease modulation in the laboratory setting. This will start to unravel how meditation, specific brain activity, and specific individuals affect a biological change. This understanding, we hope, will help enhance the meditative experience of individuals in the future.
Finally, we have been involved in numerous remote and in-person coherence healing studies throughout the year. We completed one double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover-design remote coherence healing study with the official Coherence group and are currently in the middle of another study focused on cancer. In the cancer-specific study, we go beyond surveys to look at changes in the microbiome and epigenetic factors. For the first time, we will start to link remote healings to biological changes. The double-blind nature of these studies refers to the fact that both the healers and healees involved do not know when they are healing “real” individuals or being healed. This then allows us to consider the placebo effect. The crossover design refers to the fact that every month the group’s changes (some individuals undergoing healing, others not) over three months.
The early analysis suggests that there are clear effects present as a result of the remote healings. Now we want to examine how this is happening and what information can we gain through our study design. In addition to these remote studies, we performed in-person coherence healing studies at 11 live meditation events throughout the year involving over 1500 healees. In all of these individuals, we performed health survey collections, and, when the research team was present, we collected biological samples. This vast undertaking will allow us to deeply study the impact of various healing modalities in the community.
QUANTUM 2.0 launched in Orlando last week, with the goal of capturing another 1000 individuals meditating. We collected the same samples as the original QUANTUM study but added blood collection, urine analysis, language/video/sound analysis, tears, and metabolic/mitochondrial monitoring in some individuals to get a more complete picture of how meditation impacts biology. We hope to get a bigger capture of the blood changes that occur in more individuals and begin to probe other fluids that may be of importance. The language component of the study will look at non-invasive measures of transformation that occur in individuals. We will utilize this data set in conjunction with QUANTUM 1.0 to build what we believe is the largest data set of what happens to individuals and a community during meditation.
I hope this recap of the year gives some perspective of what we have been able to achieve with your support. Thank you for your continued support of InnerScience, which allows for this groundbreaking research. We are excited at the limitless possibilities that exist to empower, heal, and allow every individual to thrive.