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Measuring levels of the circulating inflammatory proteins IL-6 and CRP over the course of a 9-month contemplative mental training study

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Puhlmann,  Lara
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Vrticka,  Pascal
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Singer,  Tania
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Puhlmann, L., Vrticka, P., & Singer, T. (2016). Measuring levels of the circulating inflammatory proteins IL-6 and CRP over the course of a 9-month contemplative mental training study. Poster presented at 6th IMPRS NeuroCom Summer School, Leipzig, Germany.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-A362-5
Abstract
Methods to more objectively assess the beneficial effects of meditation- and mindfulness-based interventions on human health and wellbeing have emerged recently, including the measurement of biological markers of immune-system activity. However, studies from this growing pool of research vary in the type of intervention applied as well as their length, the latter often being quite short. The available preliminary evidence on objective markers of the effects of contemplative mental training on health and wellbeing therefore is still rather inconsistent (Black and Slavich, 2016). To more precisely investigate the effect of different types of mental training on immune-system activity, we repeatedly assayed the level of the circulating inflammatory cytokines C-reactive protein and Interleukin-6 in healthy individuals during the ReSource Project, a 9-month contemplative mental training study. Within three distinct 3-month modules, participants were taught to cultivate a range of mental and affective capacities, including present-moment-focused awareness, attention and introspection (Presence module); loving kindness, gratitude, compassion and dealing with difficult emotions (Affect module); as well as meta-cognitive skills and perspective taking on self and others (Perspective module). A retest control cohort not undergoing any training was also included. We hypothesized that levels of both cytokines would be reduced in participants undergoing mental training as compared to the retest control cohort. We also predicted that cytokine levels would decrease differently as a function of module content in participants undergoing mental training. Such results would indicate that damaging chronic low-grade elevation in circulating cytokines can be specifically dampened through training of distinct mental capacities.