As Compassion meditation specifically fosters positive feelings such as equanimity, joy, and compassion towards others, it may be ideally suited to reduce the stress and negative emotions related to stressful encounters. Pilot data for a neuroimaging dataset obtained with a prior Varela Award shows that Compassion training, more than Relaxation training, increased positive ratings of personally disliked persons and decreased amygdala activation to their pictures. Current NIH objectives are making it increasingly difficult to obtain funding for projects utilizing neuroimaging technology to assess treatments that have not been vetted as an intervention that benefits “bundled health behaviors” (John Glowa, NCCAM, personal communication). This current proposal is a combined field and laboratory study that will examine the usage of a compassion meditation application (app) vs. an active control, and determine whether and how it impacts the quality of interpersonal relationships as well as physiological stress measures. In particular, we will incentivize participants to utilize the compassion practices in circumstances in which a stressful encounter is anticipated or has recently occurred over the course of 6 months. A subset of participants from each group will also undergo a physiological paradigm to determine if behavioral benefits correlate with physiological changes.

Julie Brefczynski-Lewis, PhD

School of Medicine, West Virginia University

Fellow, Grantee, Reviewer