Academic Publishing COVID-19

Time to Meditate

Merry Christmas from PNAS

Year Two of the pandemic is coming to an end. We had every possible stupid COVID-19 miracle cure, many of our much admired scientific elites proved to be greedy liars and narcissistic morons, learned societies and scholarly publishers turned out to be not really learned and scholarly while literally selling us and our safety for money, anything went and every crook came to claim a piece of the covidiocy action. And we lost friends and watched many of those we respect fall for the pandemic quackery, as the virus refused to go away.

So here is a Christmas present from the National Academy of Sciences USA and their prestigious journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, short PNAS.

Yogic meditation cures all diseases, in particular COVID-19. What a way to end 2021.

Vijayendran Chandran, Mei-Ling Bermúdez , Mert Koka , Brindha Chandran , Dhanashri Pawale , Ramana Vishnubhotla , Suresh Alankar , Raj Maturi , Balachundhar Subramaniam , Senthilkumar Sadhasivam Large-scale genomic study reveals robust activation of the immune system following advanced Inner Engineering meditation retreat Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2021) doi: 10.1073/pnas.2110455118 

Yes, it is exactly what the title says. The wise yogic scholars hail from fancy US institutions: University of Florida, Indiana University, University of Pittsburg and even Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Harvard. NB: If the same manuscript arrived from India, it would be desk-rejected by PNAS in ten minutes with a stern warning, if not blacklisting, for its authors.

But the authors being US professors with fancy affiliations, their quack clinical study being a financial investment by Indiana University and University of Florida, so brains were switched off and money was tallied up. To make sure no sane editor or reviewer makes any trouble, the manuscript was editorially handled and approved by the 85 year old emeritus professor of psychology, Michael Posner. One of the proud reviewers was the Mayo Clinic stem cell researcher Nagarajan Kannan:

It is even more worrisome that the manuscript was a “direct submission”, thus not sneaked in without proper peer review via the “contributed” track, which is only available for abuse to US Academy members.

Now, you sure can’t wait to read the abstract:

“The positive impact of meditation on human well-being is well documented, yet its molecular mechanisms are incompletely understood. We applied a comprehensive systems biology approach starting with whole-blood gene expression profiling combined with multilevel bioinformatic analyses to characterize the coexpression, transcriptional, and protein–protein interaction networks to identify a meditation-specific core network after an advanced 8-d Inner Engineering retreat program. We found the response to oxidative stress, detoxification, and cell cycle regulation pathways were down-regulated after meditation. Strikingly, 220 genes directly associated with immune response, including 68 genes related to interferon signaling, were up-regulated, with no significant expression changes in the inflammatory genes. This robust meditation-specific immune response network is significantly dysregulated in multiple sclerosis and severe COVID-19 patients. The work provides a foundation for understanding the effect of meditation and suggests that meditation as a behavioral intervention can voluntarily and nonpharmacologically improve the immune response for treating various conditions associated with excessive or persistent inflammation with a dampened immune system profile.”

And here is the graphic abstract, as shared by the authors and their universities:

Yes, you can cure COVID-19 and even the dreadful and untreatable multiple sclerosis by yogic meditation, because there is a “meditation-specific core network” of activated genes to let you soar above all ailments. Ideally, you should buy a course from the bearded master Sadhguru whose “Inner Engineeringscam business this clinical study serves as a peer-reviewed advertisement for.

Source: Inner Quackgeneering

The authors of the PNAS paper declare to have no conflicts of interests whatsoever, even if at least one of them, the clinician trial’s principal investigator and Pierce Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, Balachundhar Subramaniam, admits an affiliation with the “Sadhguru Center for a Conscious Planet“, indeed this is an actual research centre at BIDMC he opened in October 2020 and is director of.

Source. BIDMC

The Sadhguru Center at BIDMC is obviously sponsored by the Inner Engineering business and pays allegedly respectable scientists (mostly from Harvard) to sit on its scientific advisory board. One of them is the last author of the PNAS paper Senthilkumar Sadhasivam, Gopal Krishna Professor of Anesthesia and Vice-Chair of Research at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Again, no conflict of interest.

The PNAS study describes the therapeutic intervention:

“The Samyama retreat was conducted in April 2018 at the Isha Institute of Inner Sciences (McMinnville, TN) with a strict vegan diet and sleep–wake cycle. Sixty days before the program, Samyama participants began preparatory training and dietary restrictions including vegan diet and elimination of substances such as garlic, onion, chili, eggplant, asafoetida, coffee, tea, alcohol, cigarettes, and other stimulants; intake of minimum 50% natural foods; and focus on “living” and uncooked foods. The preparatory daily practices included Hata yoga (Surya Kriya and Yogasanas; asanas, or postures, meant to knead and strengthen the body), Kriyas (Shakti Chalana Kriya and Shambhavi Mahamudra; combinations of posture, breath, and sound that are meant to purify and enhance the flow of one’s energies while simultaneously increasing general stability), Shoonya (conscious nondoing meant to bring stillness and stimulate the release of physical, mental, and emotional blocks), Pranayama (Sukha Kriya; regulation of breath, meant to facilitate overall stability, balance, and steady attention), and Ardha Siddhasana (an asana in which one sits cross legged with the heel of the left foot placed at the foundational junction of one’s energy channels, meant to help participants sit in stillness with spine erect for longer durations). Study participants had at least 1 y of meditation experience (not Samyama) and had a daily yoga and meditation practice of 1 to 2 h per day before the retreat. During the Samyama retreat, individuals were expected to remain entirely silent for 8 d, with more than 10 h of meditation per day.”

I really would love to know what went through the heads of PNAS editors. If it was meant as a Christmas prank a la The BMJ, it’s not working. Or did Sadhguru threaten the editors with bad karma of hair loss, impotence and yeast infection if they don’t accept the paper?

Or is this a sign that nobody reads research manuscripts anymore, just ticking off authors’ affiliations and whether there is a connection to COVID-19? Even retrospectively, since this “clinical study” in the Inner Engineering resort was done in 2018?

Oh god, Sadhguru is indeed clairvoyant!!!

One online session is charged with €115. Quite cheap for peer reviewed enlightenment!

Let us look at the preregistered clinical trial from 3 years ago, with 759 registered participants (NCT04366544), its principal investigator was the UPitt professor Sadhasivam. As conditions to be treated the investigators logged “Consciousness, Level Altered” and “Ecstasy“. There was of course no control arm.

Brief description:

The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of Samyama program on blood levels of selected neurotransmitters before and after the program, and associate with corresponding effects on mind/psyche before and after the program in adult participants.

Hypothesis:

  1. The state of higher consciousness and ecstasy resulting from Samyama result from increased levels of Anandamide, an endocannabinoid, and Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).
  2. The 60-day preparatory phase that includes dietary regulation and yogic practices will reduce the gut inflammation and thereby will improve the gut microbiome.

The search the neurotransmitters ended up not as purposeful as planned. The peer-reviewed PNAS paper never even once mentions “Anandamide“, the word “endocannabinoid” appears only mentioned in references in the title of a Hindawi paper by our yogic friends (68. Sadhasivam et al., Inner engineering practices and advanced 4-day Isha yoga retreat are associated with cannabimimetic effects with increased endocannabinoids and short-term and sustained improvement in mental health: A prospective observational study of meditators. J. Evid. Based Complementary Altern. Med. 2020, 8438272 (2020).). Even though this analysis was originally registered as Nr 1 of Primary Outcome Measures.

Same for the word “BDNF“, Nr 2 of Primary Outcome Measures: the word appears only is in the reference of Frontiers paper about yogic meditation (Cahn et al 2017), titled: “Yoga, Meditation and Mind-Body Health: Increased BDNF, Cortisol Awakening Response, and Altered Inflammatory Marker Expression after a 3-Month Yoga and Meditation Retreat“. One of its authors is Indiana University’s ophthalmologist Raj Maturi, also co-author on the PNAS study.

Source: Inner Fakegeneering

The word “microbiome” is never mentioned once, nowhere in the paper’s text, no only no gut microbiome (Secondary Outcome Measures Nr 1 and 2): no belly button microbiome, no armpit microbiome and no Sadhguru’s bushy beard microbiome either.

Which means, our holy men of science failed to discover any of the things they planned to discover. That despite the trial participants data being unblinded and analysed not by independent analysts, but by Sadhguru’s employees at BIDMC:

“MRI and EEG data from Indiana University and a collaboring site, part of Harvard University will be combined to increase the statistical power. De-identified MRI and EEG data will be mutually shared with Boston investigators (PI: Dr. Balachundhar Subramaniam).”

All this explains why “Blood and Stool” were collected from each participants, but the shit got dumped because yogic meditation failed to have any effect. Unsurprisingly. So the wise American scholars used just blood, which they subjected to very expensive RNA Seq transcriptomics analysis on very expensive machines, which these days buys you the right to publish any crap in a prestigious journal because you can squeeze any shitty theory out of Big Data.

Sadhguru talks about how Michael Jackson & Elvis Presley were examples of genius that could transform a whole generation, which unfortunately went waste due to one missing quality.”

Worth mentioning that their preregistered Primary Outcome Measures also originally included “Epigenetic analysis (DNA methylation)” of the participants’ blood with “a Infinium® MethylationEPIC BeadChip“, “scanned using HiScanSQ system (Illumina)” which obviously also delivered none of the desired results. For this reason, the words “epigenetic” or “methylation” are never mentioned in the PNAS paper outside of references.

This is how magic works. Already in 2018, the holy men of Inner Engineering clairvoyantly designed a cure for COVID-19. An alternative theory may be that these crooks scholars has been trying to publish this crap for the last 3 years, and every journal rejected it as too phony and too stupid. But what with the pandemic’s “anything goes”, one journal eventually saw the clickbait and money potential. Heck, if Nature and Science can peddle Traditional Chinese Medicine, so can PNAS push Ayurveda and meditation.

So now, according to the esteemed Academy journal PNAS, we have the cure for COVID-19, plus for “asthma, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, depression, metabolic disorders, MS, neurodegenerative disorders, obesity, osteoporosis, posttraumatic stress disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, and sepsis“, and this cure is a competitively priced online course of yoga and mediation with Sadhguru’s Inner Engineering.

Source: Inner Scamgeneering

The University of Florida issued a press release, which quoted the PNAS paper’s lead author Vijayendran Chandran, their assistant professor of pediatrics and neuroscience.

“Chandran’s interest in the molecular roots of Inner Engineering actually started with some prodding by his wife — and a dose of healthy skepticism. Just try it for 48 days, she said. He did so for about 21 minutes a day.

“I was just trying to be open-minded. I tried it and it worked really well. My clarity and focus were improved. I just felt great,” Chandran said.

That also awoke his scientific curiosity: How exactly did Inner Engineering practices benefit the body? To establish their findings, Chandran and his collaborators studied the genetic profiles of 388 samples obtained from 106 people before and after an April 2018 advanced Inner Engineering retreat at the Isha Institute of Inner-Sciences in McMinville, Tennessee.”

Funny, the originally preregistered clinical trial had 759 participants. So how many blood samples from how many participants were analysed and trashed until our devout Sadhguru followers decided they cherry-picked enough to churn it into a peer-reviewed PNAS paper?

Sadhguru Talks – Corona situation across the world, The promise of vaccine, Benefit of Neem and Turmeric…

The press release continues:

“Chandran, whose research specialties include bioinformatics and “big data” analysis, had more than 70 million data points from the blood samples. Like a police detective following a trail of evidence, Chandran let the data be his guide.

“What we found was that multiple genes related to the immune system were activated — dramatically — when you do Inner Engineering practices,” Chandran said. […]

“This is the first time anyone has shown that meditation can boost your interferon signaling. It demonstrates a way to voluntarily influence the immune system without pharmaceuticals,” he said.

The researchers reported that the findings also have potential implications for many immune-related conditions such as COVID-19 and multiple sclerosis. While meditation boosts activity in the 68 interferon-related genes, patients with severe COVID-19 have the opposite problem: a dearth of interferon activity that inhibits virus fighting.”

Now, all this would have made another lovely and quite entertaining Frontiers paper. Nobody would raise an eyebrow in surprise.

But it succeeded as a direct submission at PNAS. Where your manuscripts, dear failed scientist reader, are getting rejected for lacking novelty, impact and mechanistic insights, or for contradicting other peer-reviewed literature.

And this is not even the first time when US science elites followed a yogic meditation guru. Read here about the UC San Diego professor Deepak Chopra (yes, him!) and the people he converted, including the Nobelist Elizabeth Blackburn and the science-popularising cardiology professor Eric Topol.

I hope I now motivated you to return to the lab after your brief Christmas holidays. Maybe science really should take time out to meditate about its values. Meanwhile, Santa Clause is coming to town:

Memory, Consciousness & Coma [Full Talk], Sadhguru at Harvard Medical School

15 comments on “Time to Meditate

  1. Fed up scientist

    This inner engineering is pure brainwashing. I have seen what it does to scientists with my own eyes – they’re like zombies who just reiterate what sadhguru says and leak it into their work. They stop being critical of their data and instead bias their findings/cherry pick to fit the whole inner engineering narrative. I don’t doubt that meditation/relaxation and a good diet does help the body but that shouldn’t be news to anyone. I wish people actually stopped and listened to what sadhguru says – it makes no effing sense whatsoever. This paper coming out in PNAS is very bad news as it is the ultimate weapon these people will have to give legitimacy to their scam. It’s a cult and people need to be aware!

    Like

  2. Maybe this like the BMJ Christmas edition? Either way, so long as it might boost my midi-chlorian counts, I’m all in with guru science. I wasn’t aware that the “Direct Submission” route where a National Academy of Science member seems to be able to green light articles was still a thing. Good thing! Otherwise we would not only missed this yogic science read, but also such hard-to-publish-in-lower-tier-specialty journal gems like caterpillars were the results of accidental sex between insects and worms!

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/national-academy-as-national-enquirer/

    Like

    • Wrong! The contributed track is where NAS member publishes their manuscript without independent peer review. This one however is a direct submission, properly peer reviewed!
      Oh, and I sent this article to PNAS chief editor and wished her a merry Christmas.

      Like

  3. Well then, my mistake just shows that I have not been familiar with submissions, direct or otherwise, through the rarefied channels to PNAS, for their brief consideration and desk rejection. Good to have my confidence in the peer review process restored. I guess if they are true peers of yogic scientists, they will be receptive to publishing yogic science. Until they recently spun it off, Elsevier published the peer reviewed journal, Homeopathy. Articles reviewed by peers who believe. Now over in my part of the world, there are dedicated researchers who published in the journal Cryptozoology, succeeded by the journal, “The Relic Hominid Inquiry.” No telling if they found true peers, such as a Yeti or Sasquatch to serve on the Editorial Board, but hey, peers are peers. Peerage with specialized knowledge reviewing peers!
    Thanks for the post!

    Like

  4. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A . 2001 Jul 31;98(16):9396-400. doi: 10.1073/pnas.161288698.

    Distinct mechanisms of cell cycle arrest control the decision between differentiation and senescence in human neuroblastoma cells

    L J Wainwright 1, A Lasorella, A Iavarone

    Affiliation
    1Department of Neurology, Developmental and Molecular Biology and Comprehensive Cancer Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461, USA.
    PMID: 11481496 PMCID: PMC55432 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.161288698

    Presently: https://www.cancer.columbia.edu/profile/antonio-iavarone-md

    Figure 4C. Much more similar than expected.

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/279AF4D4E590238CA08B82613C8B07#3

    Like

  5. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A . 2007 Oct 16;104(42):16633-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0708043104. Epub 2007 Oct 5.

    Declining p53 function in the aging process: a possible mechanism for the increased tumor incidence in older populations

    Zhaohui Feng 1, Wenwei Hu, Angelika K Teresky, Eva Hernando, Carlos Cordon-Cardo, Arnold J Levine

    Affiliation
    1
    Cancer Institute of New Jersey, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ 08903, USA.
    PMID: 17921246 PMCID: PMC2034252 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0708043104

    Much more similar than expected:-

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/D927999EB49E5C74BD2BFA1861F7AF

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/D927999EB49E5C74BD2BFA1861F7AF#4

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/D927999EB49E5C74BD2BFA1861F7AF#5

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/D927999EB49E5C74BD2BFA1861F7AF#18

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/D927999EB49E5C74BD2BFA1861F7AF#22

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/D927999EB49E5C74BD2BFA1861F7AF#23

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/D927999EB49E5C74BD2BFA1861F7AF#24

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/D927999EB49E5C74BD2BFA1861F7AF#25

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/D927999EB49E5C74BD2BFA1861F7AF#27

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/D927999EB49E5C74BD2BFA1861F7AF#28

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/D927999EB49E5C74BD2BFA1861F7AF#32

    Like

  6. Pingback: Tempo di meditare – ocasapiens

  7. elisa franceschi

    Merci !!!

    Like

  8. Man, oh man…. What journals can be trusted anymore ?…🤯
    A manuscript is more likely to get rigorous reviews on Leonid’s site …Wait a sec, maybe we should start considering that….👍

    Like

  9. Shafiuddin SIddiqui

    Yesterday I saw this meditation paper in PNAS and thought what kind of shitty paper is this. This so called Sadhguru is a big conman who bashes science all the time and recently rejected textbooks knowledge in front of media. He charges hundreds of dollar for few days of inner engineering class and call pharmaceutical products as scam of western medicine. Paradoxially, Sadhguru and his follower now will use a scientific paper to justify their stupid practice while bashing rational scientific thinking by this conman.

    Like

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