vanderbilthealthWhat is integrative medicine?

The integrative approach to health and wellness is one that focuses on the whole individual, rather than one organ system or one cluster of symptoms with the goal to promote health, well-being and ultimately, human flourishing. It is a therapeutic approach that targets mind, brain, and body, including psychosocial dynamics to best understand and treat aspects of human functioning and dysfunction. This type of medicine uses traditional clinical approaches that are augmented by what is often described as “complementary health” approaches, such as acupuncture, massage, tai chi, meditation, yoga, and natural products such as herbs/botanicals, vitamins or other dietary supplements. American currently spend $30.2 Billion out-of-pocket on such approaches and much research is still necessary to provide the rigorous evidence-base to support the appropriate use of these practices and facilitate its integration into mainstream healthcare.

The mission of The Osher center’s new CNIM research laboratory is to alleviate suffering and improve well-being through rigorous investigation of the connections between mind, brain, and body

The approach of the CNIM involves close collaboration with the departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Brain Institute, and the Institute for Imaging Science. The following represent the research and programmatic initiatives of the CNIM Lab:

  • Basic Science: Advancing understanding of the basic neurobiological mechanisms and physiology through which contemplative and integrative health practices cultivate a healthy mind and body across the lifespan
  • Clinical & Translational Science: The translation of rigorous basic science research into a holistic approach to patient care. This involves identifying and targeting select populations that can benefit from mindfulness-based and integrative medicine interventions through dismantling studies and randomized controlled clinical studies
  • Innovation: Using innovation (e.g., virtual reality, real-time neurofeedback, mobile apps) to augment traditional forms of therapy with integration of technology
  • Interdisciplinary Collaborations: Interdisciplinary collaborations with the humanities, physical and natural sciences, behavioral and social sciences
  • Outreach and Education: Extending outreach with the Vanderbilt University community through a lecture series (open to the public), curriculum development, and education initiatives that are intended to help disseminate and communicate research findings from the field of integrative medicine to the community with an interest in mind-body-brain health and wellness

Persistent subjective states of anxiety or depression resulting from chronic stress, pain, or incidence of trauma, facilitate dynamic and iterative dysregulation across sensory-motor, emotional, and cognitive processes. These chronic maladaptive states increase the likelihood of poor health outcomes including immunodeficiency, inflammation, and psychopathology. Fortunately, a growing body of research suggests that certain forms of systematic mental training associated with mindfulness-based meditation practices can provide the requisite tools for improved self-regulation, prosocial behavior, and overall well-being. Based on these observations, there are two main questions that drive my program of research: 1. What are the neurobiological and environmental components that contribute to risk and resilience for developing psychopathology? 2. Can systematic forms of mental training modulate these components in an adaptive way?