Background: The prevalence and socioeconomic cost of late life depression (LLD) is on the rise, while the response rate to antidepressant trials remains poor. Various mind-body therapies are being embraced by patients as they are considered safe and potentially effective, yet little is known regarding the effectiveness of such therapies to improve LLD symptoms. Among the mind-body therapies currently in practice, the results of our pilot study have shown that a particular meditation technique called Sahaj Samadhi Meditation, which belongs to the category of meditation termed automatic self-transcending meditation (ASTM) may have some promise in improving cardiovascular autonomic disturbances associated with LLD as well as ameliorating symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Methods/design: Patients between the ages of 60 and 85 with LLD will be randomized either to ASTM plus treatment as usual (TAU) or TAU alone to assess changes in cardiovascular autonomic parameters, neuropsychological symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as quality of life. The instructional phase of the intervention consists of 4 consecutive days of meditation training, after which participants are encouraged to meditate twice daily for twenty minutes each time at home. The intervention also includes once weekly follow up sessions for the subsequent 11 weeks. The planned study has one and a half year recruitment period. Participants will be assessed at baseline and at 4, 8, 12 and 24 weeks post intervention.
Discussion: This study should provide a unique data source from a randomized, controlled, longitudinal trial to investigate the effects of a form of ASTM on cardiovascular autonomic and neuropsychological health in LLD.
Trial registration: Clinicaltrials.gov NCT02149810, date registered: 05/28/2014.