Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The relaxation response correlates with changes in gene expression

Herbert Benson's book "The Relaxation Response" which appeared about 25 years ago, has had great influence in shaping public awareness of the debilitating effects of stress and anxiety and measure that can be taken to counter it. His institute at the Mass General Hospital has generated an interesting study of changes in gene expression profiles observed in short and long term relaxation response (RR) practitioners. A bit of context is provided in the introduction:
Mind-body approaches that elicit the RR include: various forms of meditation, repetitive prayer, yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, guided imagery and Qi Gong. One way that the RR can be elicited is when individuals repeat a word, sound, phrase, prayer or focus on their breathing with a disregard of intrusive everyday thoughts. The non-pharmacological benefit of the RR on stress reduction and other physiological as well as pathological parameters has attracted significant interest in recent years to decipher the physiological effects of the RR. In addition to decreased oxygen consumption, other consistent physiologic changes observed in long-term practitioners of RR techniques include decreased carbon dioxide elimination, reduced blood pressure, heart and respiration rate, prominent low frequency heart rate oscillations and alterations in cortical and subcortical brain regions.
The authors observed changes in gene expression profiles regulating molecular and biochemical pathways involved in cellular metabolism, oxidative phosphorylation, generation of reactive oxygen species and response to oxidative stress. They suggest that these changes to some degree serve to ameliorate the negative impact of stress (which is known to increase oxidative stress and promote a pro-inflammatory milieu).


  1. deric, have you ever seen this video?

    fairly articulate expostion on the primacy of consciousnes

    would like your feedback

  2. the word response has alwasy been curious to me, in benson's work ... what is responding? the body. to what? the mind? intention? is that non-physical? how can the non-physical affect the physical? or is it the physical affecting itself?

    (i am on a quest to learn enough to convince neruro guys that consciousness doesnt come from meat, from biochemical interactions, which to me is not cause, but effect)

  3. Gregory,
    As is obvious from my blog, I do think that consciousness comes from meat, and complete fail to appreciate the new 'superparadigm' of Peter Russell (
    I can see utterly no way of validating dualistic or spiritualistic approaches. With materialistic neuroscience, one at least has physical correlates of consciousness that are increasingly compelling.

  4. the physical correlates are certainly compelling. i think that there is no way to consider any other possibility unless one shift happens, that one starts to identify oneself as the awareness, and not as the thoughts that appear in awareness.

    the genie out of the bottle is the perfect sufi story for this event, and it never goes back in.

    if we see an ink stain on paper, did it come out of the paper, or fall onto the paper? if we never saw the action, there is no way to tell from examining the paper.

    i merely hope to further the questioning.

    thanks for you time. your work is amzing. hope it goes into a book.

  5. from your last note:
    "identify oneself as the awareness, and not as the thoughts that appear in awareness."

    this is an excellent description of what happens during some forms of temporal lobe seizures.....

  6. are you referring to that TED talk by tyler? i thought she was really in the self, interpreted the experience from what she knew of the right hemisphere ..

    the identification idea is from the language of meditation cultures, that we are not our thoughts we are what knows the thoughts.. we commonly say i am angry but the I is not angry, it is what sees the anger ... that "witness" self is the door into what mystics speak of, and science cannot yet talk about

    one thing yet to be investigated in science is the understanding of subtler levels of both awareness and body ... we can understand that there is energy or force because we can see the effects, but cannot see the energy or force itself

    subtlety of both instrumentation and concept will certainly increase as we come to understand that everything is not on the same plane of reality.

    i have two things to say about science, it doesn't tell us about the universe, it tells us what the mind can know about the universe ..

    and, that science has much to say about the bumps on the orange, and has even delved into pigmentation, but has no idea about the fruit inside, and not a clue about the magic of the seeds that can make more oranges .. metaphor

    have you looked at friendfeed? ... you could cross-post to there, same effort, double or triple the audience, and maybe some good conversations .. try this to get a feel, or start with a single person, say, and see the linking conversations ..

    your work needs wider audience

  7. meat at work? or a by-prodeuct of something non-material

    a good site you probably already follow .. found it on friedfeed

  8. Hi,

    I totally agree with "about science, it doesn't tell us about the universe, it tells us what the mind can know about the universe" On alternative, more subtle forms of awareness... I think the best thing I have read on integrating phenomenology, philosophy, neuroscience, is the Metzinger book "Being No One". His discussion of altered states of consciousness, clinical syndromes, etc. in chapters 4 and 7, is the best I have seen. If you use the blog search box for "metzinger" you will find some references to him.

    Friendfeed looks fascinating, also like more interaction than I could handle, already feeling caught in a traffic jam of interactions.

  9. thanks... youtube has him here

    plus many other neuroscience videos there.. thanks