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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 148  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 190-199

Imaging & neuropsychological changes in brain with spiritual practice: A pilot study

1 Department of MRI, P.D. Hinduja Hospital & Medical Research Centre, Mumbai, India
2 Department of Neurology, KEM Hospital, Mumbai, India
3 Department of Neuroimaging & Interventional Radiology, National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences, Bengaluru, India
4 Department of Nuclear Medicine, P.D. Hinduja Hospital & Medical Research Centre, Mumbai, India
5 Department of Nuclear Medicine and PET-CT, Bombay Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Mumbai, India
6 Department of Neurology, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Mumbai, India
7 Shanti Kshetra Premgiri Ashram, Global HQ, Raigad, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr Santosh S Gupta
Department of MRI, P.D. Hinduja Hospital, Veer Savarkar Marg, Mahim, Mumbai 400 016, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijmr.IJMR_194_17

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Background & objectives: Some studies have systematically assessed the effects of spiritual practice (SP) on the brain using combined neuropsychological testing and functional imaging. The objective of the present study was to compare imaging and neuropsychological changes in healthy individuals after SP and those with only physical exercise. Methods: Healthy adult male volunteers, aged 25-45 yr were randomized into two groups. Group 1 (SP group) underwent the SP and group 2 (controls) did brisk walk for 30 min daily. Detailed neuropsychological evaluation, resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and brain 99mTc ethyl cysteinate dimer single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) were carried out for both groups before and three months after intervention. Results: Post-intervention, resting state fMRI showed increased connections of left precuneus (in the posterior cingulate cortex area of default mode network) in group 1 and increased left frontal connections in group 2. The neuropsychological tests showed significant improvement in 'Speed of Processing' (Digit Symbol Test) in group 1 and in Focused Attention (Trail Making A) in group 2. The SPECT data in group 1 showed significant improvement in perfusion of the frontal areas, with relatively lesser improvement in parietal areas. Group 2 showed significant improvement in perfusion predominantly in parietal areas, as compared to frontal areas. In addition, significantly improved mood was reported by group 1 and not by group 2. Interpretation & conclusions: This pilot study shows important functional imaging and neuropsychological changes in the brain with SP.

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