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Concept: Chronic stress


More than 5 million deaths a year are attributable to tobacco smoking, but attempts to help people either quit or reduce their smoking often fail, perhaps in part because the intention to quit activates brain networks related to craving. We recruited participants interested in general stress reduction and randomly assigned them to meditation training or a relaxation training control. Among smokers, 2 wk of meditation training (5 h in total) produced a significant reduction in smoking of 60%; no reduction was found in the relaxation control. Resting-state brain scans showed increased activity for the meditation group in the anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortex, brain areas related to self-control. These results suggest that brief meditation training improves self-control capacity and reduces smoking.

Concepts: Brain, Tobacco smoking, Cerebrum, Limbic system, Relaxation technique, Premotor cortex, Chronic stress, Stress management


BACKGROUND: Chronic daily stress has significant physical, emotional, and financial implications; levels of stress are increasing in the US. Dr. Benson highlighted how the mind and body function together in one’s experience of the stress response and proposed the existence of the relaxation response (RR). OBJECTIVE: The current paper describes the foundation and development of an 8-session multimodal treatment program for coping with chronic stress: the Relaxation Response Resiliency Program (3RP). METHODS: We review the past decades of RR research, outline the development of the 3RP treatment, and provide an overview of the program’s theory and content. RESULTS: Extensive research and clinical work have examined how eliciting the RR may combat stress through down-regulation of the sympathetic nervous system. Related to this work are the multidimensional constructs of resiliency and allostatic load. The 3RP is based on principles from the fields of stress management, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and positive psychology, and has three core target areas: (1) elicitation of the RR; (2) stress appraisal and coping; and (3) growth enhancement. An 8-week patient-centered treatment program has been developed, with the purpose of assisting patients with a variety of psychological and medical issues to better cope with chronic stress. CONCLUSIONS: Mastery of the RR is theorized to maximize one’s ability to benefit from multimodal mind body strategies. The goal of the 3RP is to enhance individuals' adaptive responses to chronic stress through increasing awareness and decreasing the physiological, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral effects of the stress response, while simultaneously promoting the effects of being in the RR.

Concepts: Anxiety, Nervous system, Psychology, Clinical psychology, Sympathetic nervous system, Stress, Chronic stress, Psychological resilience


Chronic stress presents a growing, pervasive burden in healthcare, and mobile smartphone applications (apps) have the potential to deliver evidence-based stress management strategies. This review identified and evaluated stress management apps across domains of (1) evidence-based content; (2) transparency in app development; and (3) functionality of the app interface.

Concepts: Management, Relaxation technique, Stress, Smartphone, Chronic stress, Stress management


BACKGROUND: Chronic stress affects many Americans. Stress management programs may be prohibitively expensive or have limited access. PURPOSE: This study aims to determine feasibility of an 8-week Internet-based stress management program (ISM) based on mindfulness principles in reducing stress in a 12-week, parallel, randomized, controlled trial. METHODS: Participants were randomly allocated to ISM, ISM plus online message board (ISM+), or control groups. Perceived stress, mindfulness, self-transcendence, psychological well-being, vitality, and quality of life were measured at baseline, week 8, and week 12 using standard validated questionnaires. RESULTS: ISM and ISM+ groups demonstrated statistically significant improvements compared with control on all measures except vitality and physical health. CONCLUSIONS: The ISM program effectively and sustainably reduced measures of stress. The magnitude of improvement is comparable to traditional mindfulness programs, although fewer participants were engaged. This feasibility study provides strong support for online stress management programs, which increase access at a fraction of cost of traditional programs.

Concepts: Quality, Management, Stress, Control, Internet forum, Chronic stress, Program management, Stress management


An increasing number of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) studies are being conducted with nonclinical populations, but very little is known about their effectiveness.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Stress, Chronic stress, Apophony


Chronic stress contributes to preterm birth (PTB), through direct physiological mechanisms or behavioral pathways. This review identified interventions to prevent PTB through decreased maternal stress. Studies were grouped according to intervention: group prenatal care (11 studies), care coordination (8 studies), health insurance expansion (4 studies), expanded prenatal education/support in the clinic (8 studies), home visitation (9 studies), telephone contact (2 studies), or stress-reduction strategies (5 studies). Group prenatal care had the most evidence for PTB prevention. Comparative studies of PTB prevention through different models of prenatal care and maternal support, education, empowerment, stress-reduction, and coping strategies are needed.

Concepts: Health care, Childbirth, Economics, Prevention, Stress, Intervention, Human behavior, Chronic stress


Recent studies indicate that mindfulness meditation training interventions reduce stress and improve stress-related health outcomes, but the neural pathways for these effects are unknown. The present research evaluates whether mindfulness meditation training alters resting state functional connectivity of the amygdala, a region known to coordinate stress processing and physiological stress responses. We show in an initial discovery study that higher perceived stress over the past month is associated with greater bilateral amygdala-subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC) resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) in a sample of community adults (N=130). A follow-up, single-blind randomized controlled trial (RCT) shows that a 3-day intensive mindfulness meditation training intervention (relative to a well-matched 3-day relaxation training intervention without a mindfulness component) reduced right amygdala-sgACC rsFC in a sample of stressed unemployed community adults (N=35). Although stress may increase amygdala-subgenual anterior cingulate cortex rsFC, brief training in mindfulness meditation could reverse these effects. This work provides an initial indication that mindfulness meditation training promotes functional neuroplastic changes, suggesting an amygdala-sgACC pathway for stress reduction effects.

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Cerebrum, Relaxation technique, Stress, Brodmann area 24, Anterior cingulate cortex, Cingulate cortex, Chronic stress


We investigated common and dissociable neural and psychological correlates of two widely used meditation-based stress-reduction programs.

Concepts: Relaxation technique, Chronic stress, Stress management


Stress describes the physiological reaction to threat or pressure, which manifests as physical symptoms of exhaustion or energy loss and psychological symptoms, including irritability or tension. If untreated, chronic stress or burnout may develop, both are areas of unmet medical need. Evidence-based treatment and prevention measures are needed.

Concepts: Avicenna, Symptoms, Force, Stress, Classical mechanics, Chronic stress, Stress management, Rhodiola rosea


Chronic stress has been shown to be associated with disease. This link is not only direct but also indirect through harmful health behavior such as smoking or changing eating habits. The recent mHealth trend offers a new and promising approach to support the adoption and maintenance of appropriate stress management techniques. However, only few studies have dealt with the inclusion of evidence-based content within stress management apps for mobile phones.

Concepts: Medicine, Medical terms, Change, Stress, Mobile phone, Mobile phones, Chronic stress, Stress management