An investigation of the effect of mindfulness training on immunological biomarkers and memory recall
Background: Pro-inflammatory cytokines have been implicated in the pathophysiology and maintenance of numerous diseases and disorders. Recently, the link between proinflammatory cytokines and cognition has also been found. Although studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can improve pro-inflammatory immune profiles and cognition, the link between improved cognitive function and pro-inflammatory immune profiles remains unclear. Furthermore, the existing studies have predominantly assessed populations with chronic illness (i.e. cancer), which makes it challenging to generalize the findings to the healthy population.
Objective: The present study aimed to examine 1) the effect of mindfulness on biomarkers of immune system and memory; and 2) the correlations between these immunological measures and memory in the healthy population.
Methods: Participants (n=26) undertook a 6-week mindfulness training intervention which was delivered via videoconferencing. Delayed and immediate memory recall was assessed utilising the computerised cognitive battery. CD4, CD8, CD69, Interleukin-6 (IL-6), C-reactive protein (CRP), and cortisol was examined with blood assays. An important involvement of CD4 and CD8 in short and long delay memory was further supported by logistical regression.
Results: There were significant improvements in immediate and long delay recall following mindfulness training, whereas immunological measures remained relatively stable and only significant change was found in CD69. Both CD4 and CD8 at baseline was found to be negatively correlated with long delay recall, together with a positive correlation between baseline CD8 and short delay recall.
Conclusion: Mindfulness training may improve memory and certain immunological biomarkers in the healthy population, and an association between memory recall and immunological measures was also found. In line with existing findings, our findings support an important role of immune system in memory and both could be improved with a brief mindfulness training.