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The effects of meditation and visual imagery on an immune system disorder: dermatomyositis

, : The effects of meditation and visual imagery on an immune system disorder: dermatomyositis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 11(2): 275-284

To analyze the relationship between a patient's "spontaneous recovery" from dermatomyositis and her practice of transcendental meditation and visual imagery without confounding effects of conventional therapies. Study of time-varying relationships between (1) measures of arm strength and skin condition (rash and pain) and (2) mind-body interventions-controlling for psychologic stress-in a patient with dermatomyositis, using regression analysis to determine half-lives of treatments and stress. Institutional referral center. Transcendental meditation and visual imagery (no drugs). Daily measurements of arm strength and skin condition over 294 days. Events producing psychologic stress were also rated using a numerical scale. The patient recovered, which is a low-probability event without conventional therapy. Regression analysis of time dependence between measures of arm strength, rash, and pain and application of mind-body treatments revealed statistically significant relationships for both meditation (p values 0.02 to 0.001) and visual imagery (p values 0.02 to 0.002). Stress had a significant negative impact on skin symptoms but not arm strength. Beneficial effects of meditation had half-lives of 48-59 days for skin condition and no detectable decay for arm strength. Benefits of visual imagery were more transient (half-lives 4-18 days). The effects of stress had half-lives of only 1-3 days. The results demonstrate a statistically significant relationship between mind-body therapies and the patient's recovery from dermatomyositis, possibly mediated by influences on the humoral immune system. A key factor in the recovery was the slower decay rate of meditation and visual imagery compared to stress. As dermatomyositis is a humorally mediated immune microvasculopathy, the benefits of meditation and imagery in our patient comport with a growing body of evidence showing that these techniques influence immune system function.


PMID: 15865493

DOI: 10.1089/act.2005.11.275

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