Encountering social, economic, or family adversity early in life can exert lifelong consequences on stress systems that contribute to health and well-being. On the cellular level, early life adversity can negatively impact telomeres, which are repetitive DNA sequences that protect chromosomes from instability and degradation. Telomeres typically shorten slowly with age, but are shorter in people who have experienced early adversity. The goal of our study is to investigate whether meditation training, which has been linked to more adaptive stress reactivity profiles, can mitigate these negative effects. Combining longitudinal and cross-sectional approaches, we will follow up a prior retreat study to establish if short-term improvements in telomere regulation following intensive meditation predict telomere length five years later, and whether meditation-related changes in telomere length are more pronounced in people with early life adversity. We will also investigate whether meditation experience can mitigate the negative relationship between early adversity and telomere length by strengthening an individual’s social resources. This will be the first study to address the role of meditation in relation to early life adversity, and will contribute novel discoveries that may aid the development of interventions for improving long-term cellular health.

Quinn Conklin, PhD

UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain

Convening Faculty, Fellow, Grantee

Quinn Conklin (she/her) is a Post-doctoral Scholar at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain where she leads the Contemplative Coping During Covid-19 project. Quinn has been a member … MORE