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Mayo Trial Concludes Amygdala Retraining Can Support Improvements for ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia Patients

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A Mind-Body Technique for Symptoms Related to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue
– Source: Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, Mar-Apr 2012

by Loren L Toussaint, et al.

By way of introduction, Amygdala Retraining Program™ developer Ashok Gupta writes:

“I am pleased to announce that our small initial pilot study by the Mayo Clinic in the USA has just been published. Although we were not involved in the delivery of the treatment and have added several new supporting treatments since the study, it still demonstrates that Amygdala Retraining was considerably more effective than the standard care for fibromyalgia and ME/CFS. The ‘standard care’ involved medical and pharmacological assessments, cognitive behavioral therapy, graded exercise, etc. Our intention now is to fund larger studies.”

[Note: It’s worth observing that this therapy is not passively received. It requires sustained, assiduous patient involvement in learning and practice, a factor that in itself may influence drop-outs.]

Context: A novel mind–body approach (amygdala retraining) is hypothesized to improve symptoms related to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue [syndrome].

To examine the use of a mind-body approach for improving symptoms related to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.

This was a single-blind, randomized controlled trial.

The study was conducted in a tertiary-care fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue clinic. [Specialty clinic served by Mayo physicians.]

Patients with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, or both were included.

Patients were randomly assigned to receive amygdala retraining along with standard care or standard care alone.

Standard care involved attending a 1.5-day multidisciplinary program [and therapies noted in the introduction].

The amygdala retraining group received an additional 2.5-hour training course in which the key tools and techniques adapted from an existing program were taught to the patient. A home-study video course and associated text were provided to supplement the on-site program.

Both groups received telephone calls twice a month to answer questions related to technique and to provide support.

Main Outcome Measures:
Validated self-report questionnaires related to general health, well-being, and symptoms, including Short Form-36, Measure Yourself Medical Outcome Profile, Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory, Epworth Sleepiness Scale, and Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire.

Results: Of the 44 patients randomly assigned who completed baseline assessments, 21 patients completed the study (14 in the standard care group and 7 in the study group).

Median age was 48 years (range, 27-56 years), and female subjects comprised 91% of the group.

Analyses demonstrated statistically significant improvements in scores for:
• Physical health,
• Energy,
• Pain,
• Symptom distress,
• And fatigue…
…in patients who received the amygdala retraining compared with standard care.

Source: Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, March-April 2012; 8:92-98. Toussaint LL, Whipple BA, Abboud LL, Vincent A, Wahner-Roedler DL. Dept of Psychology, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa; Division of General Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. [Email: touslo01@luther.edu]

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7 thoughts on “Mayo Trial Concludes Amygdala Retraining Can Support Improvements for ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia Patients”

  1. beanier says:

    The study abstract says that “Of the 44 patients randomly assigned who completed baseline assessments, 21 patients completed the study (14 in the standard care group and 7 in the study group).”

    This means that over half of the study participants dropped out of the study and only 7 people who were in the ‘treatment’ group completed the study. This means that the majority of the participants who were in the ‘treatment’ group didn’t even think the study was worth finishing. I’m so sick of these crappy psychobabble studies not counting drop outs in their results, what a crock!

  2. medfeb says:

    In addition to the concern with the number of dropouts in the test group, one additional concern:

    The methods section of this study states “Inclusion criteria were as follows a confirmed diagnosis of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and/or chronic fatigue syndrome; age 18 to 59 years; and access to a DVD player. No patients were excluded on any other basis.” (Direct quote from the study)

    Say what? How is chronic fatigue defined? How is chronic fatigue syndrome defined? And how can these two be mixed into one study group? Unfortunately, the study report gives no further information than the above statement. No diagnostic criteria for ME/CFS, no references to Fukuda or the Canadian Consensus Criteria or the International Criteria and nothing for the symptom chronic fatigue – so its impossible to know which patients were actually studied.

    Studies which continue to mix ‘chronic fatigue’ patients in with ME/CFS do nothing to advance our understanding of this devastating disease or help identify effective treatments. They only add to the confusion and stigma associated with ME/CFS.

    Come on, Mayo Clinic. Twenty five plus years after Incline Village and Lyndonville, patients need much better than this from you. They need further research into the biological pathologies that have been amply demonstrated over the years so that a cure can finally be found.

  3. lacste says:

    I own the Gupta Program. I received the most benefit using the techniques at a time in my life when I wasn’t working and had very little stress. I do have to admit the program allowed me to experience a feeling of well being that I had not experienced in many years prior.

    During that time I felt an increase in energy (both attributable to being out of work and using the stress reduction techniques of the program), but when I chose to direct that energy into vigorous exercise the benefits of the program ended there. I was still out of breath with a racing heart for hours that kept me up all night and then I crashed the next day. Also, since I have returned to work the program only helps to mitigate the symptoms of ME/CFS.

    I don’t know whether or not the Program can actually reverse fatigue as it seems to me ME/CFS is probably attributable to other factors other than (or in addition to) an over sensitized amygdala. I do think there is a psychosomatic component to ME/CFS, but I don’t think that is the full picture. For instance, some researchers take notice of polymorphisms or mutations in genes that are involved in the functioning (or dysfunctioning) of the methylation cycle leading to glutathione depletion.

    All in all the program was worth the money for me and could be a helpful aid. I’d certainly like to hear from anyone who can say the program reversed fatigue for them.

  4. Laehcar says:

    I often wonder if we could re-train the brains of psychopaths whose brains show both structural and functional differences, than to those of us who are born highly sensitive. I wonder if we could re-train their brains to be more compassionate, empathic, feeling and caring of others? Researchers have discovered that there is reduced connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala of psychopaths. The prefrontal cortex regulates guilt and empathy, while the amygdala regulates anxiety and fear.)1 I highly doubt that a mind-body treatment would be effective for making psychopaths more sensitive souls. So, why is it that only highly sensitive people are expected to be able to change structural and functional differences in their brain with mind/body treatments?

    Neuroscience and sensitivity – our superior colliculus and amygdala

    As we know who have one, a highly sensitive nervous system is not necessarily a disorder. A recent news item by ScienceDaily reported on research that may explain more about the neuroscience that underlies high sensitivity.


    1) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111122230903.htm

  5. Laehcar says:

    Your amygdala controls your fight or flight response and is responsible for your response to stress. However excess anxiety doesn’t appear to be caused simply by a hyperactive amygdala. The amygdala–prefrontal cortex network is also affected by the neurotransmitter dopamine. Increasing dopamine could be the answer to reducing anxiety levels. Pet scans have shown that people who have more dopamine storage capacity in their amygdala are less likely to suffer from anxiety.


  6. lynnenamka says:

    As someone scientifically trained, I would think that SPECT brain scans that show actual changes in the brain after a treatment would be required by the scientific community before naming a technique. Otherwise it is just hype.

    As a psychologist with this syndrome who works with clients with chroniIc fatigue, I know there are better treatments than this approach. Extensive time was spent to teach the methods–no wonder people dropped out at a high rate.

    As someone who has spent years studying the latest approaches, I know that the cognitive behavioral approach is useful only for the most conscientious person who is willing to constantly address their thought and has the energy to do so.

    That’s not most of us.

    And by the way, my doctorate emphasized the cognitive behavioral approach. And I do use it with clients and myself daily and have written much about it.

    The better psychological treatments utilize body/mind/spirit. That would be the newer Energy Psychology techniques. They are much more efficient that the older treatments.

    I would love to see a study using the same amount of resources with the Emotional Freedom Techniqiue. The tapping techniques are more effective in my opinion. Forty studies have been done with different populations showing its effectiveness. There is a professional bias against using the self-acupressure techniques that include the cognitive approach along with self-forgiveness statements.

  7. Boodle says:

    I am a psychotherapist with FM, and I bought this training. Watching his explanation of the cycles between the pre-frontal cortex and the amygdala, much of what he said makes sense. The fight or flight sensitivity being stuck on high, and the A taking orders from the PFC also rings true. I have treated anxiety where people have actually become addicted to the adrenaline/cortisol response from constant hypervigilance as a child.

    That being said, if one were to follow his program, all they would be doing in their waking hours is jumping on that mat and going through the drill. When I thought about patients with fatigue doing it “100 times a day if necessary”, I thought “sir, you are out of your mind”. It had me wondering how bad his ME/CFS really was if he could do that. I certainly couldn’t with my pain level.

    So maybe he is on to something, but if people can’t do it (as the drop-out numbers suggest), that only reinforces the feeling of failure and self-doubt. I truly think mild yoga or mindfulness meditation are just as mind/body oriented, but more doable.

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