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Individuals with asthma have twice the risk of developing mood and anxiety disorders as individuals without asthma and these psychological factors are associated with worse outcomes and greater need for medical intervention. Similarly, asthma symptom onset and exacerbation often occur during times of increased psychological stress. Remission from depression, on the other hand, is associated with improvement in asthma symptoms and decreased usage of asthma medication. Yet research aimed at understanding the biological underpinnings of asthma has focused almost exclusively on the periphery. An extensive literature documents the relationship between emotion and asthma, but little work has explored the function of affective neural circuitry in asthma symptom expression. Therefore, the following review integrates neuroimaging research related to factors that may impact symptom expression in asthma, such as individual differences in sensitivity to visceral signals, the influence of expectation and emotion on symptom perception, and changes related to disease chronicity, such as conditioning and plasticity. The synthesis of these literatures suggests that the insular and anterior cingulate cortices, in addition to other brain regions previously implicated in the regulation of emotion, may be both responsive to asthma-related bodily changes and important in influencing the appearance and persistence of symptom expression in asthma.

Individuals with asthma have twice the risk of developing mood and anxiety disorders as individuals without asthma and these psychological factors are associated with worse outcomes and greater need for medical intervention. Similarly, asthma symptom onset and exacerbation often occur during times of increased psychological stress. Remission from depression, on the other hand, is associated with improvement in asthma symptoms and decreased usage of asthma medication. Yet research aimed at understanding the biological underpinnings of asthma has focused almost exclusively on the periphery. An extensive literature documents the relationship between emotion and asthma, but little work has explored the function of affective neural circuitry in asthma symptom expression. Therefore, the following review integrates neuroimaging research related to factors that may impact symptom expression in asthma, such as individual differences in sensitivity to visceral signals, the influence of expectation and emotion on symptom perception, and changes related to disease chronicity, such as conditioning and plasticity. The synthesis of these literatures suggests that the insular and anterior cingulate cortices, in addition to other brain regions previously implicated in the regulation of emotion, may be both responsive to asthma-related bodily changes and important in influencing the appearance and persistence of symptom expression in asthma.
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OBJECTIVE: The underlying changes in biological processes that are associated with reported changes in mental and physical health in response to meditation have not been systematically explored. We performed a randomized, controlled study on the effects on brain and immune function of a well-known and widely used 8-week clinical training program in mindfulness meditation applied in a work environment with healthy employees. METHODS: We measured brain electrical activity before and immediately after, and then 4 months after an 8-week training program in mindfulness meditation. Twenty-five subjects were tested in the meditation group. A wait-list control group (N = 16) was tested at the same points in time as the meditators. At the end of the 8-week period, subjects in both groups were vaccinated with influenza vaccine. RESULTS: We report for the first time significant increases in left-sided anterior activation, a pattern previously associated with positive affect, in the meditators compared with the nonmeditators. We also found significant increases in antibody titers to influenza vaccine among subjects in the meditation compared with those in the wait-list control group. Finally, the magnitude of increase in left-sided activation predicted the magnitude of antibody titer rise to the vaccine. CONCLUSIONS: These findings demonstrate that a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function. These findings suggest that meditation may change brain and immune function in positive ways and underscore the need for additional research.
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