meditation, state and trait physiological stress responses, college students, heart rate variability, health, stress test
Higher Education | Movement and Mind-Body Therapies | Physiological Processes | Psychiatry and Psychology | Rehabilitation and Therapy
This study was conducted as part of a larger project assessing the impacts of meditation on state and trait physiological stress responses in a college population. College students face a tremendous amount of stress which could result in detrimental health implications and affect academic performance. The overall goal of the project is to assess the impacts of meditation on students' psychophysiological stress, academic performance, and overall well-being. In order to elicit a physiological stress response in the laboratory setting we used a modified version of the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST). Our version substituted the mock interview portion with verbal analogy questions from previous GRE exams. The math stressor section remained the same as in the original TSST. This paper specifically focuses on the efficacy of our modified TSST as indicated by normalized high frequency heart rate variability (HF HRV) using pulse photoplethysmography (PPG). This analysis method has been shown to be a measure of parasympathetic activity. Thus, we expected normalized HF HRV to decrease during verbal and math stressor intervals. Phase one of the study consisted of a one-day meditation workshop and testing days pre- and post-workshop. The normalized HF HRV data from post-workshop testing showed a significant decrease from baseline to the math stressor interval. However, no significant difference was seen between baseline and verbal stressor intervals (n=6). This indicates that our modified TSST was partially effective in eliciting a stress response. Phase two of the study involves a semester-long compassion seminar course entitled Religion 250: Seminar in Compassion. Testing was conducted during finals week preceding the course. Post-compassion seminar data will be collected in April during finals week, but pre-seminar data showed a significant decrease in normalized HF HRV from baseline to the verbal stressor interval. However, no significant difference was seen from baseline to the math stressor interval (n=17). This indicates that our modified TSST was partially effective in eliciting a stress response. When post-seminar data is collected we can analyze the effects of the compassion seminar course on state and trait physiological stress responses in a college population.
Green, M. (2013). The Efficacy of a Modified Trier Social Stress Test as Indicated by Heart Rate Variability (Undergraduate honors thesis, University of Redlands). Retrieved from https://inspire.redlands.edu/cas_honors/513
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