Author Archives: silversantestudy

Silver Santé Study expert and volunteers give evidence at UK Houses of Parliament

One of the Silver Santé Study’s expert researchers and two participants from its SCD Well trial gave evidence to a committee at the UK Houses of Parliament on May 14.

Dr Antoine Lutz, of Inserm, who leads the Study’s meditation work package, presented the latest evidence in relation to meditation and its impact on healthy ageing to the Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group’s inquiry into ‘Mindfulness, Ageing Well and Older People’.

He was joined by two of the Study’s participants – Jack Forsey, of Buckhurst Hill in Essex, and Jenney Cleary, of Loughton, Essex – who talked about their own personal experiences of taking part in a mindfulness group as part of the Study’s SCD Well clinical trial.

Dr Lutz, a Research Director based in Lyon, France, said: “It was a privilege to be able to share the latest evidence on meditation and healthy ageing with the Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group at the House of Commons today.

A pilot study published in 2017 showed potential for improving brain structure and function in later life – which is associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s – in a small group of expert meditators. If these results can be replicated in clinical trials with much larger cohorts it could be hugely beneficial to society in terms of improving mental health in later life.

However, only a longitudinal clinical study in which participants are assessed before and after the intervention, such as the Silver Santé Study, will demonstrate that it is indeed the meditation intervention that is responsible for a positive impact on the brain.”

The Silver Santé Study, which began in January 2016, is running two clinical trials investigating mental health and well-being in later life, including Alzheimer’s disease and its mechanisms.  The Study’s first trial, called SCD-Well, is assessing the effects of short-term meditation and health education interventions on behavioural measures. It includes 147 participants with some level of subjective cognitive decline who were recruited from memory clinics in France, Germany, Spain and the UK, with blood tests and questionnaires used to assess the impact of the interventions on cognition and well-being. The results of this trial, which is led by Dr Natalie Marchant of University College London (UCL),  are currently being analysed and are due to be released later this year.

In the second trial, Age-Well, 137 healthy older adults aged 65+ in the Caen region of France have been randomly assigned to one of three groups – meditation, English learning or a control group in which participants have made no changes to their lifestyles. The 18 month interventions are the longest ever for meditation and language learning and the effects are being assessed through both behavioural and biological measures. These include blood sample analyses, questionnaires, cognitive tests, sleep assessment, neuroimaging data and lifestyle factors. Changes are measured between baseline readings and those at 18 and 21 months. A group of senior expert meditators has also been included in the study. The results of the Age-Well trial, led by the project’s Coordinator, Dr Gaël Chételat, are expected in 2020.

Dr Lutz was joined at today’s meeting by Harriet Demnitz-King, a Phd student working on the SCD-Well trial at UCL under the supervision of Dr Natalie Marchant, and Dr Thorsten Barnhofer, of the University of Exeter, who helped develop the Study’s meditation interventions.

Dr Lutz added: “I am grateful to the Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group for giving the Silver Santé Study the opportunity to take part in their inquiry and we look forward to seeing the Group’s policy recommendations in due course.”

For further information about the Mindfulness APPG and to listen to an audio recording of the event visit https://www.themindfulnessinitiative.org/news/mappg-mindfulness-ageing-well-and-older-people

Dr Antoine Lutz, of Inserm, presents details of the Silver Santé Study at the Mindfulness APPG meeting on Ageing Well.

French Ministry of Health invites project to meeting on mindfulness meditation

Silver Santé Study Coordinator, Dr Gaël Chételat, was invited to take part in a conference on mindfulness meditation organised by the French Ministry of Health and Public Health France in Paris.

The event, which took place on 20th June at the Ministry of Solidarity and Health, focused on the development of health and well-being interventions based on mindfulness and brought together experts from a variety of fields to discuss and question how mindfulness can be applied in society.

Dr Chételat presented the scope and aims of the Silver Santé Study as part of a roundtable session on the application of mindfulness interventions in different environments, which included ageing, justice, education, health and work.

“I was very pleased to take part in the meeting,” says Dr Chételat. “I think it helped dispel some of the misconceptions that exist about mindfulness meditation and made clear that it is a secular activity that is accessible to all in society.

“It also explored the potential for meditation to be used in a variety of environments – whether it’s at work, in education or in healthy ageing so the Silver Santé Study’s work investigating the impact of mental training techniques, like meditation and language-learning, was highly relevant.”

Dr Chételat was one of a number of scientists invited to speak at the meeting including Professor Jean-Gérard Bloch of the University of Strasbourg and Judson Brewer, Director of Research and the Mindfulness Centre at Brown University, US.  The meeting, facilitated by health journalist Elisabeth Marshall, was opened by the Director General of the French health department, Jerome Salomon.

For further information about the event visit the French Ministry of Health website here.

Caption: Dr Gaël Chételat (centre) taking part in a panel discussion with health journalist, Elisabeth Marshall (left), and Dominique Steiler, Chair of “Economic Peace, Mindfulness and Well-being at Work” at Grenoble Ecole de Management.

Scientific papers added to website

A list of the scientific papers published by Silver Santé Study researchers as part of the study has been uploaded to the project website.

The new page – “Project Publications” – lists five scientific papers, three published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research and clinical interventions, one in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy and a fifth which has been accepted for publication in Current Opinion in Psychology. Links to each paper are included.

More papers will be added as they are accepted for publication so check back regularly to see our latest work. Click here to visit the page.

The Silver Santé Study’s expert researchers at the 2019 annual consortium meeting in Liège.

Follow-up tests added to Age-Well trial

Following the completion of the first wave of Silver Santé Study’s Age-Well clinical trial, the volunteers have agreed to take part in additional follow-up tests at 21 months. This is to further strengthen validation of the trial by studying whether the effects of mental training techniques persist over time.

Over the last 18 months, the group of 42 older adults aged 65+ has been helping our expert researchers learn more about mental health & well-being in the ageing population. After taking part in a series of baseline tests, each volunteer was randomly assigned to one of three groups – an English language course, a meditation course, or a control group in which participants made no changes to their lifestyle.

Volunteers in Wave 2 will undertake their end of intervention visits in May 2019, and the Wave 3 volunteers have recently finished the nine-month visit.

Blood tests, neuroimaging scans and questionnaires have been used by our expert researchers to assess the impact of the mental training techniques on the brain. The volunteers’ lifestyle habits – such as sleep, diet, physical exercise and emotions – have also been monitored.

The results of the Age-Well trial are expected to be released in 2020.

Caption: Age-Well volunteers taking part in an English learning class at the University of Caen, France.

Join us at the ‘Brain health across the lifespan’ public conference

Are you interested in hearing from some of Europe’s leading brain health experts on mental health and well-being?

Then take a look at the programme for our “Brain health across the lifespan” public conference aimed at healthcare specialists, researchers, patient groups, professional societies and patients with an interest in brain health. Jointly organised by the EU-funded Silver Santé Study and Lifebrain Project as well as the German Brain Council, the event will take place in Berlin on Wednesday 6th November and will cover topics such as promoting healthy brain ageing, styles of thinking and how they affect dementia risk, and whether video gaming affects the brain.

Silver Santé Study Project Coordinator and keynote speaker at the conference, Dr Gaël Chételat, said: “As an EU-funded project, we are delighted to have this opportunity to share our work directly with individuals and organisations with an interest in brain health and we would urge anyone with an interest in this field to attend.

“Several of our senior Silver Santé researchers will be speaking at the conference, alongside experts from Lifebrain and the German Brain Council and other invited speakers, and we look forward to contributing to interesting discussions about mental health and well-being on the day.”

Experts from the Silver Santé Study, Lifebrain and the German Brain Council will discuss the latest experimental approaches and evidence from these two major European research consortia regarding the impact of socioeconomic factors, physical activity, nutrition, and mental training on cognitive function, mental health, and well-being throughout life.

These results will also be explored in light of prevention and intervention strategies for brain disorders. The conference will gather European speakers from different research areas including psychology, neurology, neuroimaging, psychiatry, genetics, epidemiology, molecular biology, and medicine. Click here to download the full conference programme.

Anyone wishing to attend the conference must register via our Eventbrite page before 1st October 2019. A maximum of 180 places are available on a first come, first served basis.

Interested in joining the Silver Santé Study team?

2 year Post-doc Position (Neuroimaging and Psychology)
at the University of Geneva

In the context of the European project “Medit-Ageing – investigating the impact of
meditation training on mental health and well-being in the ageing population”, the Swiss
Center for Affective Sciences (University of Geneva) offers a post-doc position in the
worpackage “Emotion” (Workpackage leader: Dr. Olga Klimecki, deputy: Prof. Dr. Patrik
Vuilleumier).

Project Summary

This project studies the role that emotions and their malleability play in healthy ageing. To
this end, we collect and analyze self-report measures, measures of social behaviour,
cognitive tests and functional magnetic resonance imaging data. We also closely
collaborate with our partner institutions in Caen and Lyon (France), London (UK),
Cologne (Germany), and Barcelona (Spain).
For more information, please visit: https://www.unige.ch/cisa/index.php?cID=1253

About our Center

The Swiss Center for Affective Sciences (director: Prof. David Sander) is one of the first
research centers worldwide dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of emotions and their
effects on human behavior and society.

Candidates

We invite applications from outstanding candidates with experience in analyzing and
publishing emotion-related data in the fields of psychology and neuroimaging.
Applications will be considered until the position is filled.

If you are interested, please e-mail your letter of motivation, your CV, your publications,
and the full contact details of two referees to olga.klimecki@unige.ch 

A first taste of mindfulness meditation

Despite its popularity, most people – myself included – know very little about mindfulness in its various forms. While I’ve followed a few short mindfulness sessions on an app at home, I confess that I couldn’t tell you the difference between mindfulness and meditation or about the different types. So when I had the opportunity to try out some meditation techniques as part of my work managing communications for the Silver Santé Study, I welcomed the opportunity to learn more.

The project’s coordinating team arranged for all the project’s partners to take part in a morning-long session trying out a variety of mindfulness meditation techniques as part of the project’s annual meeting in Liége, Belgium, late last year. Leading the session, for 22 participants, was experienced meditation instructor and author, Martine Batchelor, who has been teaching meditation for many years and has led sessions with the volunteers taking part in the Study’s clinical trials.

At the start of the session, our first job was to sit comfortably, upright in the chair or on the floor – whichever was more comfortable – and to make sure our feet were connected to the ground. We were then asked to close our eyes and to concentrate on our breathing – breathing in….breathing out… allowing ourselves to breath naturally but taking notice of the rhythm of our breathing and how it made the different parts of our bodies move as we inhaled and exhaled.  As I listened to Martine’s gentle voice and focused intently on the rhythm of my own breathing, I could feel myself becoming more and more deeply relaxed. At one point, I actually fell asleep for a few seconds.

Breathing, and being mindful of each breath, appeared to be at the core of all the meditation techniques that followed in our session.

Next we tried out body scan meditation, which involved concentrating on one part of the body at a time and working our way from head to toe – each time being encouraged to notice any sensations, whether it was being aware of a foot touching the ground or how our clothes brushed against our skin. If our thoughts wandered, we were encouraged to gently bring them back to the present moment, to experience the here and now, being aware of any background sounds in the room.

We moved on to another technique – standing meditation – in which we stood behind our chairs with legs slightly apart and hands either by our sides or comfortably resting on the backs of the chairs. Personally, I found it harder to meditate while standing, but perhaps with more practice it becomes easier.

The next meditation type experienced was gratitude and appreciation meditation which focuses on contemplating the things for which we feel grateful – for example, our good health, loved ones or nature. In our session we were encouraged to think about our own bodies and to tell ourselves that we appreciate certain features we’re happy with. I wasn’t the only person to struggle a little with this concept but perhaps that’s a sign that we need it more than others!

Lastly, we tried compassion or loving kindness meditation, which is said to help you become more compassionate towards yourself and others.  We were asked to think about ourselves, someone we care about, someone we feel neutral about, and someone we have a little difficulty with and to recite silently, inwardly, a series of phrases. Thinking of each person in turn we said:

“May you have happiness, may you be free from suffering, may you experience joy and ease.”

The repeating phrases element of this technique came less naturally to me than the more basic breathing and body scan techniques. Perhaps, in time, I would grow more accustomed to it, but this was a completely new experience and a technique I certainly didn’t take to immediately.

By the end of the session, I felt both relaxed and invigorated and came away with a very positive view of meditation and with a few useful techniques, such as breathing and body scan meditation, which I will definitely put to good use at home to help with relaxation and to de-stress.

It is hoped that the results of the Silver Santé Study, the first of which are expected in 2019, will contribute to important discussions about how the general population can maintain a good quality of life and help decision-makers devise policies that will help reduce the cost of care for age-related illnesses.  But, perhaps most importantly, the project team hopes the results will enable its team of experts to develop specific tools and techniques that we can all use to help safeguard our mental health in later life, allowing us to be healthier and happier throughout our lives.

 

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