Major depressive disorder, or depression, is one of the most common mental disorders. In 2013, it is estimated that major depressive disorder affected about 253,000,000 people in the world. The percentage of people who are affected at one point in their life varies from 7% in Japan to 21% in France.
In a recent study, researchers from Rutgers University and The State University of New Jersey develop a novel clinical intervention called “Mental and Physical” (MAP) training that can help treat depression.
The intervention combines mental training through meditation and physical training through aerobic exercise.
They find that the MAP training can strongly reduce depressive symptoms and ruminative thoughts (i.e. repetitively thinking about negative experiences). The finding is published in Translational Psychiatry.
Researchers recruited 22 people with major depressive disorder and 30 healthy adults in the study. All participants took the MAP training in an 8-week intervention (2 sessions/week). Each session consisted of 30 min of meditation and 30 min of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.
Following the intervention, people with major depressive disorder reported much less depressive symptoms and ruminative thoughts. Typical healthy participants reported less depressive symptoms too.
In addition, researchers measured each participant’s brain activity in a cognitive task before and after the training. They found that following MAP training, brain responses related to conflict monitoring and cognitive control increased, especially among individuals with depression.
Researchers suggest that the combination of aerobic exercise and meditation may be particularly useful in improving cognitive control processes and decreasing ruminative thoughts.
Citation: Alderman BL, et al. (2016). MAP training: combining meditation and aerobic exercise reduces depression and rumination while enhancing synchronized brain activity. Translational Psychiatry, 6: e726. DOI: 10.1038/tp.2015.225.
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