Increasing evidence suggests that meditation improves both emotional and physical well-being. However, much remains to be understood about how meditation might confer these health benefits. To address key unanswered questions within the field of meditation research, investigators from the Mind-Body Program and Emory-Tibet Partnership at Emory University are collaborating with the Santa Barbara Institute to conduct the Compassion and Attention Longitudinal Meditation (CALM) Study. The CALM Study will extend recent findings that training in compassion meditation reduces the types of deleterious physical and emotional responses to psychological stress that have been associated with an array of modern illnesses, including depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and dementia.
Central questions to be addressed by CALM include:
1) what is the role of practice time in meditation results;
2) do specific meditative techniques have unique health-relevant physiological effects;
3) what role do autonomic and inflammatory pathways play in the effect of meditation on stress-responsivity;
4) what changes in brain functioning are associated with meditation-related changes in physiological stress responses;
5) what are the long-term health consequences of meditation-induced changes in physical and emotional responsivity to psychosocial stress?
To answer these questions, the CALM Study will compare a secularized, lojong-based (Tibetan mind-training) compassion meditation program developed by Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Ph.D., to attentional and mindfulness practices developed at the Santa Barbara Institute by B. Alan Wallace, Ph.D. Students randomized to these meditation interventions will also be compared to students randomized to a health education group control condition developed by Dan Adame, Ph.D., at Emory University. The CALM Study will enroll 360 freshmen college students over a 5-year period at Emory University.