MADISON, Wis., Dec. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. and European researchers say they may be able to explain the biological mechanism resulting in the therapeutic effects of meditation.
Study author Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said mindfulness-based training had beneficial effects on inflammatory disorders in prior clinical studies and are endorsed by the American Heart Association as a preventative intervention.
"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice," Davidson said in a statement.
Davidson and first author Perla Kaliman of the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona said the findings showed a down-regulation -- the process by which a cell decreases the quantity of a cellular component, such as RNA or protein -- of genes that have been implicated in inflammation. The affected genes include the pro-inflammatory genes RIPK2 and COX2 as well as several histone deacetylase -- HDAC -- genes, which regulate the activity of other genes by removing a type of chemical tag.
What's more, the extent to which some of those genes were down-regulated was associated with faster cortisol -- stress hormone -- recovery to a social stress test involving an impromptu speech and tasks requiring mental calculations performed in front of an audience and video camera.
"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice," Davidson said.
There was no difference in the tested genes between the two groups of people at the start of the study. The observed effects were seen only in the meditators following mindfulness practice, the study said.
The findings were published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.