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Mind-Body Training for Stress Reduction

A new paper published by Chinese researchers suggests an emerging mind-body technique can produce measurable changes in attention and stress reduction in just five days of practice.

The practice — integrative body-mind training (IBMT) — was adapted from traditional Chinese medicine in the 1990s in China, where it is practiced by thousands of people. It is now being taught to undergraduates involved in research on the method at the University of Oregon.

In October 2007, researchers led by visiting UO professor Yi-Yuan Tang and UO psychologist Michael Posner documented in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences that doing IBMT prior to a mental math test led to low levels of the stress hormone cortisol among Chinese students.

The experimental group also showed lower levels of anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue than students in a relaxation control group.

“The previous paper indicated that IBMT subjects showed a reduced response to stress.” Tang said. “Why after five days did it work so fast?”

The new findings, he said, point to how IBMT alters blood flow and electrical activity in the brain, breathing quality and even skin conductance, allowing for “a state of ah, much like in the morning opening your eyes, looking outside the grass and sunshine, you feel relaxed, calm and refresh without any stress, this is the meditation state.”

This week, in a paper appearing online ahead of regular publication in PNAS, Tang and 13 Chinese colleagues define brain and physiological changes triggered by IBMT. Data were drawn from several technologies in two experiments involving 86 undergraduate students at Dalian University of Technology, where Tang is a professor.

The data were analyzed and prepared for publication at the UO with help from Posner and psychology professor Mary K. Rothbart, who are not co-authors on the paper.

“We were able to show that the training improved the connection between a central nervous system structure, the anterior cingulate, and the parasympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system to help put a person into a more bodily state,” Posner said. “The results seem to show integration — a connectivity of brain and body.”

In each experiment, participants who had not previously practiced relaxation or meditation received either IBMT or general relaxation instruction for 20 minutes a day for five days. While both groups experienced some benefit from the training, those in IBMT showed dramatic differences based on brain-imaging and physiological testing.

Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) — a scanning method less distracting than functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) — showed IBMT subjects had increased blood flow in the right anterior cingulate cortex, a region associated with self regulation of cognition and emotion.

Physiological tests also revealed significant changes. Compared with the relaxation group, IBMT subjects had lower heart rates and skin conductance responses, increased belly breathing amplitude and decreased chest respiration rates, all of which, researchers wrote, “reflected less effort exerted by participants and more relaxation of body and calm state of mind.”

Finally, researchers noted, IBMT subjects had more high-frequency heart-rate variability than their relaxation counterparts, indicating “successful inhibition of sympathetic tone and activation of parasympathetic tone [in the autonomic nervous system].” Sympathetic tone becomes more active when stressed.

Preliminary findings of a recently completed but unpublished UO study involving a small group of U.S. students are showing nearly identical results, Posner said. The UO study used fMRI rather than SPECT. A much larger UO study is in progress.

IBMT avoids struggles to control thought, relying instead on a state of restful alertness, allowing for a high degree of body-mind awareness while receiving instructions from a coach, who provides breath-adjustment guidance and mental imagery and other techniques, while soothing music plays in the background. Thought control is achieved gradually through posture, relaxation, body-mind harmony and balanced breathing. A good coach is critical, Tang said.

“Life is full of stress, and people need to learn methods to handle stress and improve their performance,” Tang said. “There is physical training but we wanted to see about mental training. This method appears to have benefit for the modern society where the pace is fast.”

Source: University of Oregon

Mind-Body Training for Stress Reduction

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2016). Mind-Body Training for Stress Reduction. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/05/20/mind-body-training-for-stress-reduction/6003.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 30 Jun 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jun 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.