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Positive psychological changes from meditation training linked to cellular health
Date:11/3/2010

Elizabeth Blackburn, professor of biology and physiology at UCSF, is a co-author of the paper. Blackburn shared the 2009 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine for discovering telomeres and telomerase. Other co-authors include UCSF colleagues Elissa Epel, associate professor of psychiatry; assistant research biochemist Jue Lin; and Owen Wolkowitz, professor of psychiatry.

Telomeres are sequences of DNA at the end of chromosomes that tend to get shorter every time a cell divides. When telomeres drop below a critical length, the cell can no longer divide properly and eventually dies.

Telomerase is an enzyme that can rebuild and lengthen telomeres. Other studies suggest that telomerase activity may be a link between psychological stress and physical health.

The research team measured telomerase activity in participants in the Shamatha Project at the end of a three-month intensive meditation retreat.

Telomerase activity was about one-third higher in the white blood cells of participants who had completed the retreat than in a matched group of controls.

The retreat participants also showed increases in such beneficial psychological qualities as perceived control (over one's life and surroundings), mindfulness (being able to observe one's experience in a nonreactive manner) and purpose in life (viewing one's life as meaningful, worthwhile and aligned with long-term goals and values). In addition, they experienced decreased neuroticism, or negative emotionality.

Using statistical modeling techniques, the researchers concluded that high telomerase activity was due to the beneficial effects of meditation on perceived control and neuroticism, which in turn were due to changes in mindfulness and sense of purpose.

The Shamatha Project is the most comprehensive longitudinal study of intensive meditation yet undertaken.

The intensive meditation retreat took place at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feathe
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Contact: Andy Fell
ahfell@ucdavis.edu
530-752-4533
University of California - Davis
Source:Eurekalert

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