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Sunday, November 4, 2018

Into the Moment: Does Mindfulness Affect Biological Pathways in Multiple Sclerosis?

Barbara Willekens,1,2,* Gaetano Perrotta,3 Patrick Cras,1,4,5 and Nathalie Cools2

Abstract

Mindfulness was introduced in the Western world by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979. He defined it as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Since then, research on mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) has increased exponentially both in health and disease, including in patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Parkinson's disease. Research on the effect of mindfulness and multiple sclerosis (MS) only recently gained interest. Several studies completed since 2010 provided evidence that mindfulness improves quality of life (QoL), depression and fatigue in MS patients. In addition to patient-reported outcome measures, potential effects on cognitive function have been investigated only to a very limited extent. However, research on laboratory biomarkers and neuroimaging, capable to deliver proof-of-concept of this behavioral treatment in MS, is mainly lacking. In this perspective, we illustrate possible neurobiological mechanisms, including the tripartite interaction between the brain, the immune system and neuroendocrine regulation, through which this treatment might affect multiple sclerosis symptoms. We propose to (1) include immunological and/or neuroimaging biomarkers as standard outcome measures in future research dedicated to mindfulness and MS to help explain the clinical improvements seen in fatigue and depression; (2) to investigate effects on enhancing cognitive reserve and cognitive function; and (3) to investigate the effects of mindfulness on the disease course in MS.
Keywords: multiple sclerosis, mindfulness, fatigue, depression, cognitive function, immune system, stress, MRI

May 2018


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