Abstract ID: 3557

Primary Topic: Mind-body (including meditation and yoga)
Secondary Topic: Basic Science
Tertiary Topic: State of the science/evidence base for integrative modalities

Differential Mechanisms of Stress Reduction following the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Relaxation Response Programs
Gunes Sevinc, PhD, , Boston, MA, United States; Javeria Hashmi, PhD, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada; Jonathan Greenberg, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital , Boston, MA, United States; Marissa L Schneider, BA, , Boston, MA, United States; Britta Holzel, PhD, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany; Adrienne McCallister, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, United States; Micheal Treadway, PhD, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, United States; Jeffery A Dusek, PhD; James Carmody, PhD, , Worchester, MA, United States; Sara W Lazar, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital , Boston, MA, United States

Late Breaker: No


The mechanisms through which stress reduction programs promote wellness are important for understanding the treatment of stress and stress-related disorders. In this study, we compared two different meditation-based programs, in order to explore any potential differential impact on stress-reduction and neural activity.

Methods/Session Format

Participants were randomized to either 8-weeks of a Relaxation Response program (RR) or a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Both programs utilize a ‘bodyscan’ meditation that differs in terms of how participants are instructed to attend to each body area. The RR program explicitly instructs physical relaxation, while the MBSR program emphasizes mindful awareness with no explicit relaxation instructions. Following the programs, neural activity during respective bodyscan meditations were investigated using fMRI (n=34). Improvements in levels of mindfulness, self-compassion and rumination were assessed using self-report measures.


Both programs reduced perceived stress and increased mindfulness. The RR program was exclusively associated with stronger functional connectivity of the right inferior frontal gyrus – an important hub of intentional inhibition and control- with supplementary motor areas during the bodyscan. The MBSR program was exclusively associated with improvements in self-compassion and rumination and with significant functional connectivity of the right anterior insula – an important hub of sensory awareness and salience- with pregenual anterior cingulate during bodyscan meditation compared to rest.


These findings indicate that the different types of bodyscan exercises were associated with different mechanisms: inhibitory control related mechanisms in RR, and emotion regulation and sensory awareness related mechanisms in MBSR. These results may have potential implications for the differential effects of mind-body interventions, as well as their utilization for the treatment of diverse conditions.