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The Effects of a Meditation Retreat on Healthy Volunteers and Cancer Patients: an fMRI Study (Sesshin)

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT00878735
Recruitment Status : Completed
First Posted : April 9, 2009
Last Update Posted : June 9, 2014
Federal University of São Paulo
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Elisa Kozasa, Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein

Brief Summary:
The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effects of a Zen meditation retreat (Sesshin) on psychophysiological parameters in healthy volunteers (regular meditators and non-meditators) and in cancer patients and to observe possible changes in the attentional circuitry (through functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging- fMRI) and in psychological tests (Beck Anxiety and Depression Inventories, Self-Compassion Scale, Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale, Lipp Stress Scale for Adults).

Condition or disease Intervention/treatment Phase
Healthy Cancer Behavioral: Zen meditation Not Applicable

Detailed Description:
Meditation results in changes in cognition, sensory perception, affect, hormones, and autonomic activity. Until today, there have been very few imaging studies of the neural correlates of meditation. Instead of evaluating the meditation practice itself, our approach is to evaluate the neural correlates of performance modulation on an attention paradigm (the Stroop word-color task; SWCT) and an emotional paradigm (the frustration paradigm) before and after a meditation retreat. The following categories of individuals will be invited to participate: healthy regular meditation practitioners (at least three years of practice, three times a week), individuals inexperienced in meditation, and patients with a cancer diagnosis. The total sample will comprise 96 individuals who will be allocated to groups of sesshin meditation, rest groups and groups that will keep their daily activities. If they wish to do so, those who participate in the two latter groups may also receive training on meditation. The subjects will be between 18 and 65 years old and have no contraindication to the fMRI exam. After signing an informed consent form, the subjects will answer anxiety, depression and stress inventories; scales that evaluate their feelings of self-compassion and mindfulness, as well as the Stroop Color Word task and an emotional paradigm of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

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Study Type : Interventional  (Clinical Trial)
Actual Enrollment : 96 participants
Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Single (Investigator)
Primary Purpose: Supportive Care
Official Title: The Effects of an Intensive Mindfulness Practice (Sesshin) on Neural Systems: an fMRI Evaluation of Healthy Volunteers and Cancer Patients
Study Start Date : January 2008
Actual Primary Completion Date : January 2009

Arm Intervention/treatment
Experimental: 1
Zen meditation
Behavioral: Zen meditation
Zen meditation retreat (7 days: 5 days from 5:30 to 9:30 plus one day for adaptation and the departure day). The program starts everyday at 5:30 and finish at 9:30. In silence, the volunteers perform seating and walking meditation, stretching exercises, eating and all tasks in mindfulness.
Other Name: Control group: no intervention

No Intervention: 2
No meditation (no intervention; keep regular activities) or a resting group (this group stays at the same place of the retreat group, but only to rest)

Primary Outcome Measures :
  1. To evaluate the neural correlates of performance modulation on an attention paradigm (the Stroop word-color task; SWCT) and on an emotional paradigm (the frustration paradigm) before and after a Zen meditation retreat. [ Time Frame: 2 years ]

Secondary Outcome Measures :
  1. Anxiety, stress and depression symptoms, self-compassion feelings and mindfulness state will also be evaluated in healthy volunteers and cancer patients. [ Time Frame: 2 years ]

Information from the National Library of Medicine

Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contacts provided below. For general information, Learn About Clinical Studies.

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Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 65 Years   (Adult, Older Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

Inclusion Criteria:

Healthy volunteers:

  • Men or women
  • Left-handed or right-handed, as long as there are left-handed individuals in both groups for comparison
  • Ages between 18 and 65
  • No history of neurological or psychiatric problems, or use of controlled medication that might interfere with attention
  • No symptoms of claustrophobia
  • Written informed consent form to participate in the study

Cancer patients:

  • The same criteria that apply to healthy volunteers in addition to a diagnosis of neoplasia confirmed by biopsy
  • Volunteers should be undergoing post-therapeutical control, have no cure criteria yet, and not have been submitted to radio- or chemotherapy in the last three months

Exclusion Criteria:

Healthy Volunteers:

  • Chemical dependence, including nicotine and alcohol
  • Dementia or psychotic condition (established by a questionnaire)
  • Depression or use of antidepressants
  • Non-controlled severe organic disease that might interfere with the performance of the study, such as neoplasias, cardiopathies, digestive pathologies, diabetes mellitus type I or type II
  • Neoplasias in the central nervous system
  • Tremor or dystonia in cephalic segment that hinders the performance of the RMf study (tremor equal to or higher than 3 in each corporal segment, according to the UPDRS scale)
  • Fulfillment of any criterion of contraindication for the MR exam (for instance, use of pacemaker; intracranial aneurism clip; cochlear implants)
  • Presence of odontological devices that might disturb the magnetic field or any sources of variation of the magnetic susceptibility
  • Presence of lesion in the encephalic parenchyma in the structural images. Exception is made to discreet punctiform areas in the white matter or a discreet reduction in the encephalic volume.
  • Any other conditions the investigator might deem problematic for the inclusion of the volunteer in a trial of this nature will also be considered

Cancer patients:

  • All the healthy volunteers, except for those that fit in the item: "non-controlled severe organic disease that might interfere in the performance of the study, such"
  • The use of medication that acts on the central nervous system

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its identifier (NCT number): NCT00878735

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Instituto Israelita de Ensino e Pesquisa Albert Einstein
São Paulo, Brazil, 05652901
Sponsors and Collaborators
Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein
Federal University of São Paulo
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Principal Investigator: Elisa H Kozasa, PhD Instituto Israelita de Ensino e Pesquisa Albert Einstein
Publications of Results:
Other Publications:
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Responsible Party: Elisa Kozasa, PhD, Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein Identifier: NCT00878735    
Other Study ID Numbers: Sesshin
First Posted: April 9, 2009    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: June 9, 2014
Last Verified: June 2014
Keywords provided by Elisa Kozasa, Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein:
Healthy volunteers (regular meditators and non-meditators)