In my previous post I talked about mindfulness and how it may be useful to minimize the effects of tinnitus that a person may experience. I defined mindfulness according to the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, who wrote that mindfulness is “an awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way- on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”
In this post, I would like to review some of the many research programs that are currently underway at the University of Toronto (where I am affiliated) that use mindfulness, not only to minimize the effects of tinnitus, but other chronic conditions as well. Not a day goes by when there is not a peer reviewed article published on mindfulness. Essentially, we are breaking down the barriers between the mind and body- the connections are becoming quite clear. Any university probably has a number of studies going on concerning the mind/body connection and interested readers should contact their local institutions to see if they can either become subjects in an on-going experiment or to get a summary of some of the research activities. Universities and colleges have departments dedicated to providing the public with an overview of what they are working on (usually it’s the same department as fund raising, so get your wallets out as well!).
Dr. Steven Selchen, a psychiatrist at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine states that “various studies…have shown that a regular practice of mindfulness meditation can result in increased immune response and brain activity, as well as general stress reduction.
Here is an assortment of various research programs currently underway that show the mind/body connection. For more information contact your local university or college.
A 2011 study led by University of Toronto psychiatrist Christine Courbasson enrolled people with both binge eating disorder and substance abuse problems in a 16-week program of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. The amount of binge eating and substance (drugs and alcohol) abuse decreased dramatically over the 16-week period.
In 2013, a study led by another University of Toronto psychiatrist, Dr. Nora Cullen, found that a 10-week program of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy reduced depression in patients who had suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
In a 2013 meta-study (a study of similar studies), Dr. Cheryl Regehr, a social work professor, found that mindfulness-based interventions reduced anxiety, depression, and cortisol levels in university students.
Brain neuroplasticity and benefits:
Psychiatry professor Dr. Zindel Segal in 2013, using MRI studies found that brain patterns were significantly different when practicing mindfulness meditations than when sitting passively. He also found that the level of neuroplasticity (brain re-wiring) increased during this type of meditation.
The British Tinnitus Association discussed the use of mindfulness meditation, noting that while it can be delivered through well-structured cognitive-based therapies, it can also be practiced while brushing your teeth or performing other mundane tasks. The authors of that report note the potential benefits of mindfulness meditation but note that to date, there are no programs specifically designed for tinnitus in the United Kingdom.
Using mindfulness meditation for the treatment of tinnitus (and hyperacusis) is still pretty much in its infancy, but it is now clear that the mind and the body are not two disassociated entities. We are a bag of biochemicals and metabolic processes, and mindfulness meditation is one more tool to control the generation of biochemical and alter our metabolic processes.