Biochemical Effects of Meditation: A Literature Review

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Abstract

Meditation is an activity that can help reduce stress and anxiety from daily life as well as help cultivate overall feelings of peacefulness, relaxation, and contentment. This review describes several studies that have been used to assess how meditation can influence the body at the molecular level. The presented results focus on small-molecule metabolites, which are broadly defined as naturally-produced molecules that weigh less than approximately 1000 Da. The results show that meditation can significantly affect hormones and neurotransmitters such as cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone, serotonin, melatonin, and epinephrine. Some common and modern experimental techniques that are relevant to these studies are also discussed, as well as some challenges of accurately interpreting the results. Overall, understanding the molecular-level effects of meditation can provide a more detailed understanding of its physiological effects because many of the affected molecules are known to be linked to changes in stress responses and mood.

 

By William C. Daube and Charles Jakobsche

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William C. Daube

William C. Daube

William Daube ’15 lives in Medford, Massachusetts and studies Chemistry. His research interests include understanding the chemical dynamics and composition of the troposphere via various types of spectroscopy. He hopes to eventually pursue graduate studies in either atmospheric chemistry or environmental engineering. In his spare time, he participates in Club Basketball and performs duties as the President of CUBS (Big Brothers Big Sisters).