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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2011, Article ID 950461, 8 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ecam/neq039
Original Article

Stress Biomarkers in Medical Students Participating in a Mind Body Medicine Skills Program

1Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Georgetown University Medical Center, 3900 Reservoir Road, Washington, DC 20007, USA
2Department of Biostatistics, Bioinformatics, and Biomathematics, Georgetown University Medical Center, 3900 Reservoir Road, Washington, DC 20007, USA
3Department of Mathematics, Georgetown University Medical Center, 3900 Reservoir Road, Washington, DC 20007, USA
4Department of Neurology, Georgetown University Medical Center, 3900 Reservoir Road, Washington, DC 20007, USA
5Department of Psychiatry, Georgetown University Medical Center, 3900 Reservoir Road, Washington, DC 20007, USA

Received 8 July 2009; Accepted 9 April 2010

Copyright © 2011 Brian W. MacLaughlin et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Georgetown University School of Medicine offers an elective Mind-Body Medicine Skills (MBMS) course to medical students to promote self-care and self-awareness. Participating medical students reported better management of academic stress and well-being than non-participants. In this study, we sought to assess the stress-reducing effects of MBMS by measuring physiological changes in first-year medical students. Saliva samples were collected before (January, time 1 (T1)-pre-intervention) and upon completion of the course (May, time 2 (T2p)-post-intervention), as well as from non-participating medical students (May, time 2 (T2c)-control). The T2p and T2c collections coincided with the period of final examinations. Cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEA-S), testosterone and secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) were measured. The mean morning salivary cortisol at T2p was 97% of the mean at baseline T1 which was significantly lower than for T2c (2.4) (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.57–1.60, P =  .001); DHEA-S showed similar pattern as cortisol where the T2p levels were significantly lower than T2c (P <  .001) in both morning and evening collections. Testosterone ratio at T2p (0.85) was also lower than T2c (1.6) (95% CI 0.53–1.3, P =  .01). sIgA levels were not statistically different. On direct comparison, the T2c and T2p means were significantly different for all cortisol, DHEA-S and testosterone values. Participants maintained their hormonal balance within the normal range throughout the academic semester while the control group showed significantly increased levels, probably exacerbated by the end of the semester exam stress. To our knowledge, this is the first study to assess the physiologic benefits of a MBMS program in medical students.