Chinese researchers have unlocked the mechanism of an emerging mind-body technique that produces measurable changes in attention and stress reduction in just five days of practice.
The practice -- integrative body-mind training (IBMT) -- was adapted from traditional Chinese medicine in the 1990s in China, where it is practiced by thousands of people. It is now being taught to undergraduates involved in research on the method at the University of Oregon.
In October 2007, researchers led by visiting UO professor Yi-Yuan Tang and UO psychologist Michael Posner documented in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences that doing IBMT prior to a mental math test led to low levels of the stress hormone cortisol among Chinese students. The experimental group also showed lower levels of anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue than students in a relaxation control group.
"The previous paper indicated that IBMT subjects showed a reduced response to stress." Tang said. "Why after five days did it work so fast?" The new findings, he said, point to how IBMT alters blood flow and electrical activity in the brain, breathing quality and even skin conductance, allowing for "a state of ah, much like in the morning opening your eyes, looking outside the grass and sunshine, you feel relaxed, calm and refresh without any stress, this is the meditation state."
This week, in a paper appearing online ahead of regular publication in PNAS, Tang and 13 Chinese colleagues define brain and physiological changes triggered by IBMT. Data were drawn from several technologies in two experiments involving 86 undergraduate students at Dalian University of Technology, where Tang is a professor. The data were analyzed and prepared for publication at the UO with help from Posner and psychology professor Mary K. Rothbart, who are not co-authors on the paper.
"We were able to show that the training improved the connection between a central ne
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University of Oregon