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  Contemplative mental training reduces hair glucocorticoid levels in a randomized clinical trial

Puhlmann, L. M., Vrticka, P., Linz, R., Stalder, T., Kirschbaum, C., Engert, V., et al. (2021). Contemplative mental training reduces hair glucocorticoid levels in a randomized clinical trial. Psychosomatic Medicine, 83(8), 894-905. doi:10.1097/PSY.0000000000000970.

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 Creators:
Puhlmann, Lara M.1, 2, Author              
Vrticka, Pascal1, 3, Author              
Linz, Roman1, Author              
Stalder, Tobias4, Author
Kirschbaum, Clemens5, Author
Engert, Veronika1, 6, Author              
Singer, Tania7, Author              
Affiliations:
1Research Group Social Stress and Family Health, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society, ou_3025667              
2Leibniz Institute for Resilience Research (LIR), Mainz, Germany, ou_persistent22              
3Department of Psychology, University of Essex, Colchester, United Kingdom, ou_persistent22              
4Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Siegen, Germany, ou_persistent22              
5Department of Biological Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, TU Dresden, Germany, ou_persistent22              
6Institute of Psychosocial Medicine and Psychotherapy, Jena University Hospital, Germany, ou_persistent22              
7Social Neuroscience Lab, Berlin, Germany, ou_persistent22              

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 Abstract: Objective This study aimed to investigate the effect of regular contemplative mental training on endocrine and psychological indices of long-term stress. Methods An open-label efficacy trial that comprised three distinct 3-month long modules targeting attention and interoception, socioaffective, or sociocognitive abilities through dyadic exercises and secularized meditation practices was conducted with healthy adults. Participants underwent the training for 3 or 9 months, or were assigned to a retest control cohort. Chronic stress indices were assayed at four time points: pretraining and after 3, 6, and 9 months. The main outcome measures were cortisol (HC) and cortisone (HE) concentration in hair and self-reported long-term stress. Results Of 362 initially randomized individuals, 30 dropped out before study initiation (n = 332; mean [SD] age = 40.7 [9.2] years; 197 women). Hair-based glucocorticoid assays were available from n = 227, and questionnaire data from n = 326. Results from three separate training cohorts (TC1–3) revealed consistent decreases in HC and HE levels over the first three (TC3) to 6 months (TC1 and TC2) of training, with no further reduction at the final 9-month mark (baseline to end of training differences, HC, TC1: t(355) = 2.59, p = .010, contrast estimate (est.) [SE] = 0.35 [0.14]; HC, TC2: t(363) = 4.06, p < .001, est. = 0.48 [0.12]; HC, TC3: t(368) = 3.18, p = .002, est. = 0.41 [0.13]; HE, TC1: t(435) = 3.23, p = .001, est. = 0.45 [0.14]; HE, TC2: t(442) = 2.60, p = .010, est. = 0.33 [0.13]; HE, TC3: t(446) = 4.18, p < .001, est. = 0.57 [0.14]). Training effects on HC increased with individual compliance (practice frequency), and effects on both HC and HE were independent of training content and unrelated to change in self-reported chronic stress. Self-reported stress, and cortisol-to-dehydroepiandrosterone ratios as an exploratory endpoint, were also reduced, albeit less consistently. Conclusions Our results point to the reduction of long-term cortisol exposure as a mechanism through which meditation-based mental training may exert positive effects on practitioners’ health.

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Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2021-03-242020-10-312021-07-092021-10-01
 Publication Status: Published in print
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 Rev. Type: -
 Identifiers: DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000970
PMID: 34259441
PMC: PMC8505163
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Grant ID : 205557
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Funding organization : European Research Council (ERC)

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Title: Psychosomatic Medicine
Source Genre: Journal
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Publ. Info: Baltimore, MD : Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 83 (8) Sequence Number: - Start / End Page: 894 - 905 Identifier: ISSN: 0033-3174
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/954925436479