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S38: Mind-Body Interventions: Physiological, Molecular, and Genetic Mechanisms

15:00 - 16:30, Brickell, Terrace Level

Jeffrey Greeson (1), John Denninger (2), Elizabeth Hoge (2), Ruth Wolever (1), M. Kathleen B. Lustyk (3)

(1): Duke University Medical Center, United States                              

(2): Massachusetts General Hospital, United States

(3): Seattle Pacific University, United States



Mind-body interventions such as meditation and yoga are widely used to reduce stress and prevent stress-related disease.  The underlying physiological, molecular and genetic mechanisms that may explain the stress reducing effects and potential health benefits of meditation and yoga, however, remain to be clarified.  This symposium brings together five clinical investigators across four academic institutions to examine potential biological mechanisms linking meditation and yoga practice with several stress-related biomarkers associated with cardiovascular health.  In the first presentation, Dr. Denninger will present pre-post pilot data (n=24) on the genomic determinants of successful treatment response to an 8-week relaxation response program for hypertensive patients.  Second, Dr. Greeson will present pre-post data (n=65) on changes in stress-induced cardiovascular reactivity and recovery following an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program for healthy, stressed adults.  Third, Dr. Elizabeth Hoge will present data (n=69) from a randomized clinical trial on MBSR for patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) that found effects on markers of inflammation (IL-6, TNF-a), coagulation (D-dimer), and endothelial cellular adhesion (VCAM-1) compared to an active educational control group.  Fourth, Dr. Wolever will present findings from a randomized, controlled trial (n=239) on employees who participated in a therapeutic Viniyoga worksite stress reduction program, one of two Mindfulness at Work™ programs (in person or online), or an assessment-only control group; outcomes included changes in perceived stress, sleep quality, blood pressure, breathing rate, and heart rate variability (HRV).  Taken together, this symposium advances the state-of-the-science by demonstrating how meditation, yoga, and relaxation response training can reduce the adverse effects of acute and chronic stress on several physiological, molecular, and genetic mechanisms implicated in hypertension and early stage cardiovascular disease - the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in industrialized countries. The Discussant, Dr. Lustyk, will highlight cross-cutting themes, laboratory methods, and clinical relevance.