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Author Notes:

Correspondence: Charles L. Raison, M.D., Assistant Professor, Mind-Body Program, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, 1365C Clifton Road, Room 5004, Atlanta, GA 30322; Office: (404) 712-8800; Fax: (404) 727-3233; Email: craison@emory.edu

Acknowledgments: For their indispensable help, the authors would like to thank Andrew H. Miller, Robert Paul, Laurie Patton, Bobbi Patterson, Carol Newsome, Paul Plotsky, Elliot Tapper, Nabila Haque, William Leasure, Anne Raison, the nursing staff of the Emory GCRC and the many members of Drepung Loseling Institute who gave so freely of their time.

Disclosures: Dr. Raison is on the speaker’s bureau for Wyeth, Lilly and Schering Plough; He has served on advisory boards for Wyeth, Lilly, Schering Plough and Centocor and is a consultant for eGenHealth.

None of the other manuscript authors have conflicts of interest to disclose.


Research Funding:

This study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (K23 MH064619), the Emory College Seed Fund, and Emory Strategic Initiative funding.

The study was also supported in part by PHS Grant UL1 RR025008 from the Clinical and Translational Science Award program and PHS Grant M01 RR0039 from the General Clinical Research Center program, National Institutes of Health, National Center for Research Resources.


  • meditation
  • compassion
  • mindfulness
  • Trier Social Stress Test
  • cortisol
  • interleukin-6

Innate immune, neuroendocrine and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress do not predict subsequent compassion meditation practice time


Journal Title:



Volume 34, Number 1


, Pages 87-98

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


Summary Meditation practices may impact physiological pathways that are modulated by stress and relevant to disease. While much attention has been paid to meditation practices that emphasize calming the mind, improving focused attention, or developing mindfulness, less is known about meditation practices that foster compassion. Accordingly, the current study examined the effect of compassion meditation on innate immune, neuroendocrine and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress and evaluated the degree to which engagement in meditation practice influenced stress-reactivity. Sixty-one healthy adults were randomized to 6 weeks of training in compassion meditation (n=33) or participation in a health discussion control group (n=28) followed by exposure to a standardized laboratory stressor (Trier Social Stress Test [TSST]). Physiologic and behavioral responses to the TSST were determined by repeated assessments of plasma concentrations of interleukin (IL)-6 and cortisol as well as total distress scores on the Profile of Mood States (POMS). No main effect of group assignment on TSST responses was found for IL-6, cortisol or POMS scores. However, within the meditation group, increased meditation practice was correlated with decreased TSST-induced IL-6 (rp =-0.46, p=0.008) and POMS distress scores (rp =-0.43, p=0.014). Moreover, individuals with meditation practice times above the median exhibited lower TSST-induced IL-6 and POMS distress scores compared to individuals below the median, who did not differ from controls. These data suggest that engagement in compassion meditation may reduce stress-induced immune and behavioral responses, although future studies are required to determine whether individuals who engage in compassion meditation techniques are more likely to exhibit reduced stress reactivity.

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© 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

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