For thousands of years, practices evoking the relaxation response (RR, which is the opposite to the stress response) have been used as an effective therapeutic intervention that counteracts the adverse clinical effects of stress. These interventions include meditation, yoga and repetitive prayer, and they've been shown to be helpful in numerous disorders including hypertension, anxiety, insomnia and aging itself. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms that explain these clinical benefits remained unknown.
This new study looked to assess rapid time-dependent (temporal) genomic changes during one session of RR practice among healthy practitioners with years of RR practice and also in novices before and after 8 weeks of RR training.
Both the novices and long-term practitioners were able to evoke significant temporal gene expression changes with greater effects seen in the practitioners (compared to the novices). Specifically, RR practice enhanced expression of genes associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance, and reduced expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress-related pathways.
So keep up the meditating, keep going to your yoga classes, and make sure you hit up your local church on Sunday for some good ol' fashion prayer!
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Source: Relaxation Response Induces Temporal Transcriptome Changes in Energy Metabolism, Insulin Secretion and Inflammatory Pathways
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