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Epigenetic basis of neuronal plasticity in mindfulness meditation training

Grant number: 19/07274-5
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Post-doctor
Effective date (Start): September 01, 2019
Effective date (End): August 31, 2020
Field of knowledge:Health Sciences - Collective Health - Preventive Medicine
Valor Concedido/Desembolsado (R$): 283,314.24 / 283,314.24
Principal Investigator:Marcelo Marcos Piva Demarzo
Grantee:Daniela Rodrigues de Oliveira
Supervisor: Richard J. Davidson
Host Institution: Escola Paulista de Medicina (EPM). Universidade Federal de São Paulo (UNIFESP). Campus São Paulo. São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Research place: University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison), United States  
Associated to the scholarship:17/16155-4 - Development of Mindfulness-Based Health Promotion - educators (MBHP - educa): evaluation of cognitive functions and epigenetic modifications., BP.PD


Previous data obtained for our group showed that educators significantly improved the memory after mindfulness meditation practices when compared with a control group. Mindfulness meditation training plays a substantial role in shaping behavior and brain function, often with lasting effects. How these lasting effects occur has been an enduring question for the field. Brain image studies (i.e., fMRI) have provided some of the answers to this question, and more recently epigenetic mechanisms have come to the fore. Recently the Davidson's group discovered that mindfulness practices regulate the inflammatory pathways by downregulation HDAC2 (histone deacetylase - HDAC type 2). HDAC is a central player in regulation of inflammatory and memory processes in mammals. Indeed, overexpressed HDAC2 has negative mnemonic effects in the brain by blocked plasticity-associated genes. Based on this, we hypothesized that mindfulness meditation training can act as a "mnemonic agent" by increasing histone acetylation levels by blocking the HADC2, and then cause an increase in expression of neuroplasticity-related genes. This molecular mechanism could explain the neuroplastic changes registered in fMRI following mindfulness meditation training. To understand the "mnemonic" effect, we will investigate neuroplasticity gains by fMRI procedure in the whole brain (particularly the hippocampus structure). And the fMRI data will be correlated with the expression of neuroplasticity-related genes by RT2PCR array. With this study, we believe that finding the key pathways that mediate epigenetic bases of neuroplasticity-related meditation training will yield significant benefits into understanding different aspects of well-being and improve quality of life. And then provide tools for mindfulness program implementation on Public Health Systems around the world. (AU)

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