Mental and physical (MAP) training targets the brain and the body through a combination of focused-attention meditation and aerobic exercise. The following feasibility pilot study tested whether 6 weeks of MAP training improves mental health outcomes, while enhancing discrimination learning and heart rate variability (HRV) in a group of women living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other stress-related conditions. Participants were assigned to training (n = 18) or no-training control (n = 8) groups depending on their ability and willingness to participate, and if their schedule allowed. Training sessions were held once a week for 6 weeks with 30 min of meditation followed by 30 min of aerobic exercise. Before and after 6 weeks of training, participants completed the Behavioral Pattern Separation Task as a measure of discrimination learning, self-report questionnaires of ruminative and trauma-related thoughts, depression, anxiety, and perceived stress, and an assessment of HRV at rest. After training, participants reported fewer ruminative and trauma-related thoughts, fewer depressive and anxiety symptoms, and less perceived stress (p’s < 0.05). The positive impact on ruminative thoughts and depressive symptoms persisted 6 months after training. They also demonstrated enhanced discrimination of similar patterns of information (p < 0.05). HRV did not change after training (p > 0.05). Combining mental and physical training is an effective program for enhancing mental health and aspects of cognition in women living with HIV, although not necessarily through variance in heart rate.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Applied Psychology
- Heart rate variability
- Pattern separation