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Levitsky, Debra K.
Effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on neuroendocrine indicators of chronic stress.

Order No. 9806955

Reduction of stress and its effects is an important objective because evidence suggests that stress causes or aggravates almost every human disease. The Transcendental MeditationΠ(TM) program is one of the most widely studied stress-reduction approaches. Thus, an understanding of neuroendocrine mechanisms mediating its effects would be useful. A previous cross-sectional study comparing long-term practitioners of the TM program to matched controls showed highly significant differences in urinary variables reflecting neuroendocrine function. In particular, practitioners of the TM program decreased in urinary excretion rates of cortisol, aldosterone, the norepinephrine/epinephrine metabolite vanillylmandelic acid, zinc, calcium and sodium, and increased in excretion of dehydroepiandrosterone and nighttime 5-hydroxy- indoleacetic acid (5-HIAA, the major metabolite of serotonin). In addition, the TM group had reduced scores on tests of anxiety and mood disturbance. These and other results suggested that the differences were due to reversal of the long-term effects of stress by the Transcendental Meditation program. The current prospective, random-assignment study attempted to test this hypothesis. Healthy, Caucasian men (18-32 y) were randomly assigned to either the TM program or a stress education control (SEC). Before and after four months' practice of the assigned stress management program, three consecutive 8-hour urine collections were taken, and psychological self-report tests sensitive to level of psychosocial stress were administered. Urine samples were analyzed for 5-HIAA by spectrophotometry, for adrenocortical steroids by radioimmunoassays and for ions of Na, J, Ca, Mg and Zn by atomic absorption spectrometry. Compared to controls, the TM subjects showed a significant decrease in sodium excretion during afternoon-evening hours, near- significant decreases in calcium excretion during the afternoon- evening and 24-hour periods, and statistically insignificant decreases in excretion rates for the other three ions. The high- compliance subjects combined from both groups showed a significantly lower cortisol excretion over the 24-hour period than the low-compliance subjects, suggesting that high compliance with either program leads to a reduction in cortisol. Results for sleeptime 5-HIAA also were in the predicted direction, but did not reach significance. Increased regularity of practice of the TM program was associated with a decreased POMS Tension-Anxiety score. In conclusion, the results appear overall to support previous cross-sectional studies suggesting the TM program reverses neuroendocrine effects of chronic stress. Source: DAI, 58, no. 08B, (1998): 4076

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