Neurophysiological Effects of A Mind-Body Intervention on Depression

Mind-body interventions may have beneficial effects on many psychological problems such as depression. A recent study investigated the neuroelectrophysiological effects of a Chan (Zen)-based Dejian mind-body intervention (DMBI) to understand its potential scientific mechanisms (Chan et al., 2013). The study also compared the effects of DMBI with those from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

In the study, a total of 75 patients with depression were assigned to three groups for DMBI, CBT, or waitlist as the control (Chan et al., 2013). Before and following 10 weeks of the interventions, the data of eyes-closed resting EEG were gathered for each participant. The study showed that following the intervention, the DMBI group had remarkably increased frontal alpha asymmetry that indicated a sign of positive mood (Chan et al., 2013). The asymmetry index has been associated with the severity levels of self-reported depression.

In addition, higher levels of intra- and interhemispheric theta coherence were observed in the frontoposterior and posterior brain areas, which indicated increased levels of attention (Chan et al., 2013). The coherence index has been associated with the performance on an attention test.

In the two other groups of CBT and waitlist, no significant changes were observed in the EEG patterns (Chan et al., 2013). These results may help explain that the mind-body intervention may have effects on depression by influencing the brain conditions and promoting positive mood and attention. Further studies with more measurements such as using functional MRI may be helpful to elucidate the mechanisms of the potential effects of such mind-body methods on the brain.


Chan AS, Han YM, Sze SL, Wong QY, Cheung MC. A randomized controlled neurophysiological study of a chinese chan-based mind-body intervention in patients with major depressive disorder. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:812096. doi: 10.1155/2013/812096.

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