You guys know I love a good MGH Mind/Body Medicine study (I should seriously start a fan club for Dr. Herbert Benson!), so it’s no surprise that this article caught my attention: Study Identifies Genes, Pathways Altered During Relaxation Response Practice. (Is it weird that the article I was reading right before this one was titled, Skinny Khloe Kardashian: Sexier Than Ever in Short Shorts?) Maybe I need to start two fan clubs! haha :)
So the cool part about this study is supposed to be, as Benson explains, the fact that researchers identified some “key physiological hubs through which [mind/body intervention] benefits might be induced.” In other words: scientists have known for a while that the relaxation response works (training your mind/body to chill out counteracts high blood pressure, diabetes, aging, etc.), but now they’re starting to pinpoint exactly where in the body those changes take place.
Side-note: If you’re not turned off by a lil old school website design (and some blast-from-the-past picture quality), RelaxationResponse.org is an amazing source of information – it even has an excerpt from Benson’s book explaining how to elicit the relaxation response. *Spoiler alert: It basically involves sitting still and relaxing ;)
Back to the study…
All that is interesting, but the thing that really caught my eye was this part:
“[The study found that] the relaxation response – a physiologic state of deep rest induced by practices such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing and prayer – produces IMMEDIATE changes in the expression of genes involved in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion.”
*Emphasis added is my own… in case anyone was confused by all that other caps-locked typing you usually find in peer-reviewed journals lol ;)
But seriously though: An immediate change?! That’s huge!
As ScienceDaily reports, a 2008 study led by Benson and Dr. Towia Libermann (director of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) Genomics, Proteomics, Bioinformatics and Systems Biology Center) found that long-term practice of the relaxation response alters gene expression – but this study shows that changes were produced after even a single session! Even more impressive? Subjects who had a history of practicing the relaxation response and newbie relaxers both exhibited changes! (The effects were just greater in the more experienced group!)
This is even more exciting than Khloe’s 25lb. weight loss!
…Even though I’m still pretty pumped about that too :) lol
For all my fellow nerds…
Here’s a lil copy-and-paste action from the study itself:
Previously, our group provided some of the first evidence that Relaxation Response (RR) practice results in specific, lasting base-level gene expression changes that are opposite to transcriptional changes produced by chronic stress. The study indicated that distinctive gene expression patterns associated with long- and short-term RR practices are sustained outside of RR-elicitation sessions.
…in the present study we interrogated the rapid and transient transcriptome changes (i.e., ‘temporal’ changes) during one session of RR practice among practitioners with years of practice (M) and novices before (N1) and after (N2) 8 weeks of RR training. We reasoned that temporal expression analysis across several time points would enable us to identify the immediate effects of one session of RR on gene expression and signaling and that these effects would differ among N1, N2 and M groups. Temporal analysis enables identification of genes that are affected by RR at multiple time points and reduces the likelihood of identifying false positives.
Importantly, this study demonstrates that during one session of RR practice rapid changes in gene expression (on the order of minutes) are induced that are linked to a select set of biological pathways among both long-term and short-term practitioners that might explain the health benefits of RR practices. These genes have been linked to pathways responsible for energy metabolism, electron transport chain, biological oxidation and insulin secretion.
And for everyone else who just clicked this post to check out the Fresh Prince…
So anyone else as impressed as me? :)
What do you guys do to relax?
Any old school Fresh Prince fans out there?
Bhasin, M.K., Dusek, J.A., Chang, B-H., Joseph, M.G., Denninger, J.W., Fricchione, G.L., Benson, H. & Libermann, T.A. (2013). Relaxation Response Induces Temporal Transcriptome Changes in Energy Metabolism, Insulin Secretion and Inflammatory Pathways. PLoS ONE, 8 (5): e62817, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062817
Dusek, J.A., Otu, H.H., Wohlhueter, A.L., Bhasin, M., Zerbini, L.F., Joseph, M.G., Benson, H. & Libermann, T.A. (2008). Genomic counter-stress changes induced by the relaxation response. PLoS ONE, 3: e2576.
ScienceDaily. (2013, May 1). Study Identifies Genes, Pathways Altered During Relaxation Response Practice. Retrieved: July 10 2013.