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OBJECTIVES: Given the demands of caring for chronically ill children, it is not surprising that caregivers often experience high levels of chronic stress. A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program may offer relief to these caregivers by providing tools for self-care and heath promotion that otherwise may be lacking. METHODS: MBSR classes were offered without restriction to parents of children attending various clinics at a large urban children's medical centre. Caregivers completed the Profile of Mood States (POMS) and Symptoms of Stress Inventory (SOSI) both before and after program participation. RESULTS: Forty-four caregivers participated in one of seven group MBSR sessions that were offered between August 2001 and February 2004. Most were mothers of children with special needs and various chronic conditions, who had been diagnosed an average of 7 years previous. Prior to the intervention, caregivers reported very high levels of stress and mood disturbance. These decreased substantially over the 8-week program, with an overall reduction in stress symptoms of 32% (p < .001), and in total mood disturbance of 56% (p < .001). CONCLUSIONS: This brief MBSR program for caregivers of chronically ill children was successful in significantly decreasing substantial stress symptoms and mood disturbance. Further studies would benefit from using more rigorous methodology and applying the program to other groups of chronically stressed caregivers.

This study examined neural activation during the experience of compassion, an emotion that orients people toward vulnerable others and prompts caregiving, and pride, a self-focused emotion that signals individual strength and heightened status. Functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI) were acquired as participants viewed 55 s continuous sequences of slides to induce either compassion or pride, presented in alternation with sequences of neutral slides. Emotion self-report data were collected after each slide condition within the fMRI scanner. Compassion induction was associated with activation in the midbrain periaqueductal gray (PAG), a region that is activated during pain and the perception of others’ pain, and that has been implicated in parental nurturance behaviors. Pride induction engaged the posterior medial cortex, a region that has been associated with self-referent processing. Self-reports of compassion experience were correlated with increased activation in a region near the PAG, and in the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG). Self-reports of pride experience, in contrast, were correlated with reduced activation in the IFG and the anterior insula. These results provide preliminary evidence towards understanding the neural correlates of important interpersonal dimensions of compassion and pride. Caring (compassion) and self-focus (pride) may represent core appraisals that differentiate the response profiles of many emotions.
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BACKGROUND: Although yoga and meditation have been used for stress reduction with reported improvement in inflammation, little is known about the biological mechanisms mediating such effects. The present study examined if a yogic meditation might alter the activity of inflammatory and antiviral transcription control pathways that shape immune cell gene expression. METHODS: Forty-five family dementia caregivers were randomized to either Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM) or Relaxing Music (RM) listening for 12 min daily for 8 weeks and 39 caregivers completed the study. Genome-wide transcriptional profiles were collected from peripheral blood leukocytes sampled at baseline and 8-week follow-up. Promoter-based bioinformatics analyses tested the hypothesis that observed transcriptional alterations were structured by reduced activity of the pro-inflammatory nuclear factor (NF)-κB family of transcription factors and increased activity of Interferon Response Factors (IRFs; i.e., reversal of patterns previously linked to stress). RESULTS: In response to KKM treatment, 68 genes were found to be differentially expressed (19 up-regulated, 49 down-regulated) after adjusting for potentially confounded differences in sex, illness burden, and BMI. Up-regulated genes included immunoglobulin-related transcripts. Down-regulated transcripts included pro-inflammatory cytokines and activation-related immediate-early genes. Transcript origin analyses identified plasmacytoid dendritic cells and B lymphocytes as the primary cellular context of these transcriptional alterations (both p<.001). Promoter-based bioinformatic analysis implicated reduced NF-κB signaling and increased activity of IRF1 in structuring those effects (both p<.05). CONCLUSION: A brief daily yogic meditation intervention may reverse the pattern of increased NF-κB-related transcription of pro-inflammatory cytokines and decreased IRF1-related transcription of innate antiviral response genes previously observed in healthy individuals confronting a significant life stressor.
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