The Genetic Breakthrough—Your Ultimate Mind Body Connection

This is the title of the second chapter from the “Relaxation Revolution” by Benson and Proctor.  Lamarkian transmission, the notion that experience could be passed on to offspring because genes would be changed  was long ago debunked.  However, recent research has revealed that although genes cannot be changed, due to epigenetics the read out from genes can be changed.  The following experiment demonstrated how the relaxation response or meditation can modify the read out from genes to the good.

The experiment involved 38 individuals. Nineteen were practitioners of techniques that invoked the relaxation response.  The average amount of experience was 9.8 years of practice.  These nineteen individuals were matched as closely as possible with nineteen individuals who had no experience with the relaxation response.  The latest microarray analysis was used to check the activity of all of the 54,000 genes in each of the research participants.  2,209 genes in the experienced practitioners group were expressed differently than the same genes in the inexperienced participants.  The genes that acted differently have been associated with stress related medical problems, including unhealthful regulation of immune responses; various forms of inflammation;premature aging, including thinning of the cortex of the brain; and other health conditions that may involve oxidative stress.

Next eight weeks were set aside to teach the non-practioners  how to enter the relaxation response state.  They were guided through a 20-minute relaxation response experience using the Olivia audio disk, a 20-minute CD.  After the eight weeks of training, blood was drawn and gene expression was measured again.

There were three sets of measurement
The experienced practitioner group
The non-practitioners before relaxation response training
The non-practitioners after relaxation response training.

They found that 433 gene expression signatures were similar in both groups.  It is remarkable that in only eight weeks of training differences were found in so many gene signatures.

This is a remarkable finding that the mind can not only affect the body, but it can also affect epigenetics, the expression of genes.

This experiment can be found in the following article:

Dusek, J.A., H.H. Otto, A.L. Wohlhueter, M. Bhasin, L.F. Zerbini, M.G. Joseph, H. Benson, aand T.A. Libermann, “Genomic Counter-Stress Changes Induced by the Relaxation Response.”  PLoS ONE, Jul., 2008, 3(7): e2576.  http://www.plosone.org.

The Olivia CD can be obtained by going to http://www.massgeneral.org/bhi and clicking on meditation CDs.

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