Egyptian physician releases new study on spirituality positive impact on ME patients

Ahram Online , Thursday 23 May 2024

Egyptian physician Ayman Youssef has published a paper highlighting the concept of spirituality and its physiological impacts on individuals suffering from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) and Fibromyalgia in Egypt, to mark the International Awareness Day for Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases on 12 May.

Marking International Awareness day for Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases


The study, published in hardcopy in the periodical of New York International University, a non-academic training and e-learning business, reviews the role of healthcare providers in stimulating these physiological circuits. 

It sheds light on the professional performance of two Egyptian health sector cadres: Professor Tarek Asaad and Dr. Salma Magdy.


Combined images of Professor Tariq Asaad (L) and Dr. Salma Magdy (R).

Professor Asaad was the head of the neurology and psychiatry departments at Ain Shams University. An award for psychiatry research was named after him following his death.

Dr. Magdy is the director of medical services at Misr El-Kheir Foundation and a prominent figure in civil society and the Egyptian health sector.

Dr. Youssef specializes in ME and Fibromyalgia and is one of 20 million affected patients around the world.

In his paper, Dr. Youssef used the neuroanatomical model of spirituality based on the theory of mind, published for the first time in the Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, in 2008.

It is one of the theories of behavioral neuroscience that focuses on investigating the neuroanatomy of spiritual awareness and faith.

The paper highlights the success of the two professors with such cases, giving positive results in increasing recognition and diagnosis of patients.

Although previously around 84 percent of cases were undiagnosed, this percentage decreased to 31 percent.

The time required to diagnose this complex disorder has decreased to 12 months, including the six months needed for symptoms to persist based on international standards, despite 29 percent of cases having previously reported that it took them five years at least.

The paper also presents a systematic review of the three-pillar theory in the etiology of the disease: hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal.

Furthermore, it confirms previous findings in Lower SF-36 total score (physical and mental function scale) in such patients, compared to others with chronic serious diseases.

Investigating the neural circuitry of spirituality has become integral in neuroscience research since Dean Hammer discussed his discovery of the so-called God gene in 2005.

It has also become essential for chronic disease research, comprehensive treatment plans, and palliative care guidelines, especially after spirituality studies shifted from the theological and social perspective to a neuroscience perspective, through genetics, psychometrics, neurotransmitter levels, and functional neuroimaging.

Spirituality affects neuroimmunity, gene expression, and multiple systems’ functional performance.

The paper’s results confirm this through several indicators: verbal and working memory increased by 44 percent; pain inhibition rates jumped by 23 percent; musculoskeletal functions improved by12 percent; basic fatigue decreased by 60 percent; post-exertion malaise decreased by 37 percent; and sleep function improved by 57 percent (disturbed sleep is an almost universal symptom reported in 91 percent of patients).

In theory, spirituality induces chemical mechanisms by the brain in neural synapses; it has mechanisms that achieve healing.

The study shows that if healthcare providers could stimulate these mechanisms through their professional and ethical practices, patients’ gains would double under a clear and measurable physiological effect.

Additionally, the study highlights the pioneering contributions of Professor Asaad and Dr. Magdy in designing the “ME Risk Pyramid” for the first time.

The risk pyramid is a tool that evaluates patients’ risks and determines necessary resources.

It also serves as an “organizational” and “administrative” reference for health systems and care teams that help them obtain a more accurate view of the disease and its management, enabling them to develop less expensive and more comprehensive treatment plans.


Their efforts have modified risk stratification to address population-level prevention issues, targeting inequalities in primary prevention for the most complex patients, who now belong to the top five percent.

Thus, they now help health systems, especially after the number of people infected with this syndrome has increased around the world following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

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