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Mind-Body Medicine. Ashley Owen, Ph.D. Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. Mind-Body Medicine. What do you think of when you think of “Mind-Body Medicine”?. Mind-Body Medicine. Voodoo?. Mind-Body Medicine. Someone trying to sell you snake oil?. Mind-Body Medicine.

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mind body medicine

Mind-Body Medicine

Ashley Owen, Ph.D.

Department of Family

and Preventive Medicine

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Mind-Body Medicine

What do you think of when you think of

“Mind-Body Medicine”?

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Mind-Body Medicine

Someone trying to sell you snake oil?

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Mind-Body Medicine

Suspend disbelief…

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Mind-Body Medicine

Try to open your mind…

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Mind-Body Medicine

And consider “the tomato fallacy”

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Mind-Body Medicine

"the tomato fallacy"

In the 19th-century, it was widely believed that

tomatoes were poisonous.

Grown as ornamental plants.

(Seed catalogs listed tomatoes as “annual ornamental flowers” ).

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Mind-Body Medicine

"the tomato fallacy"

The Story:

Robert Johnson, citizen of Salem, MA publicly ate a basketful

on the courthouse steps.

When he didn’t drop dead…

he had his converts.

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Mind-Body Medicine

"the tomato fallacy"

Now tomatoes lung,

are known prostate,

to reduce and and stomach

risk of cancer .

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Mind-Body Medicine

"the tomato fallacy"

The point:

It is easy to become locked into only one frame of thought.

Western Medicine is not immune to this error.

Other viable models should be considered.

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Mind-Body Medicine

Current paradigm shift from





model of medicine.

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Mind-Body Medicine

"the tomato fallacy"

Don’t get stuck in the tomato


You??? 

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Mind-Body Medicine


What’s so special about this “phenomenological” line of research I’m supposed to be keeping my mind open to?

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Mind-Body Medicine


Well, just how do YOU explain the following phenomenon?

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Mind-Body Medicine
  • Myocardial Infarctions among Christians > the day after Christmas.
  • Rates of second Myocardial Infarctions > when the patient is depressed.
  • Mortality rates > after the death of a spouse.
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Candace B. Pert, Ph.D.

Emotional states seem to affect the likelihood that an individual will live or die.

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Mind-Body Medicine


Who exactly, is this Dr. Candace B. Pert?

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Mind-Body Medicine



Candace D. Pert is the…

  • neuroscientist who discovered the opiate receptor

- leader in research on the role of neuropeptides in the immune system (psychoneuroimmunology)

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Mind-Body Medicine


Study of communication interface among

emotions, neuroendocrine

thoughts, and and immune


at the biochemical level.

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“The chemicals that are running our body and our brain are the same chemicals that are involved in emotion.” (Pert)

Feelings and thoughts literally

alter immunological processes

through neuropeptides.

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Mind-Body Medicine

The molecules of emotion = messengers (neuropeptides) carrying information to link major systems of the body into one unit we call the body/mind.


Mind and body are one.

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Through these neurochemical changes associated with

emotions and thoughts …

the mind can influence

whether or not the organism gets sick.

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Mind-Body Medicine


“The AIDS virus uses a receptor that is normally used by a neuropeptide.

So whether an AIDS virus will be able to enter a cell or not depends on how much of this natural peptide is around,

which . . . would be a function of what state of emotional expression the organism is in.“(Pert)

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Mind-Body Medicine

More evidence…

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Mind-Body Medicine

Stress from an evolutionary standpoint

When lion is chasing

an animal…

Needs to get energy into

blood stream NOW to power

its muscles to save its life.

Heart rate, blood pressure, go up to deliver energy more quickly.

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Mind-Body Medicine

Stress from an evolutionary standpoint (contd.)

Alternatively, (when a lion is chasing an animal…)

It shuts down long-term building projects

(otherwise there is no long term)

It turns off the immune system

It grows antibodies, antlers, or babies later

It digests its food later

(otherwise it won’ t be needed for a tomorrow)

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Stress from an evolutionary standpoint (contd.)

Fine and effective in the short term.

However, human cognition allows us to anticipate, so they we tend to worry in advance of problems, while other animals don't.

Ex. Y2K problem.

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Mind-Body Medicine

Don’t see this

too often!

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Mind-Body Medicine

Stress from an evolutionary standpoint (contd.)

Among humans, stress is often long- term, (we worry about responsibilities, evaluation of others , balancing the checkbook, mortgages)

These stressors don’t go away the way the stress of running from a lion does once you’ve escaped…

These are chronic stressors.

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Mind-Body Medicine

With chronic stress - mobilization and inhibition processes needed for running from that lion continue to be activated.

Contantly mobilized

  • Energy: never store it, more at risk for diabetes.
  • Blood pressure: hypertension, set up for atherloroscrerosis
  • Neurotransmitters for acuity during an emergency: damage and atrophy in learning and memory centers ex. glucocordicoids relation to depression
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Mind-Body Medicine

Constantly inhibited

  • Digestive system: more at risk for colitis & some versions of IBS
  • Growth systems: Stress dwarfism
  • Reproduction: cycles become irregular, testosterone levels go down, erectile dysfunction
  • Immune system: infectious diseases
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  • Stress suppresses

immune system

  • Chronic stress

chronically stresses

immune system.

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Mind-Body Medicine


stress can trigger

overeating or


thought or emotion

Bodily process

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Mind-Body Medicine

One line of mind/body research investigates attempts to reverse the negative effects of stress on health.

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Mind-Body Medicine

Mind/Body Therapies:

* interventions that facilitate the mind’s capacity to affect bodily

functions and symptoms.

(Johnson & Kushner, 2001)

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In the early 1970s, Herbert Benson, a cardiologist interested in non-pharmacological approaches

to hypertension, identified

the “relaxation response” .

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“Relaxation Response”

Benson found that meditation was related to

- lower heart and respiratory rates

- lower-than-average blood pressure

- alpha waves indicating a state of relaxed

alertness versus a sleep state.

- general reversal of the sympathetic activation seen in the “stress response.”

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* Teach self-regulation of the autonomic, parasympathetic nervous system, returning the mind and body to a balanced, relaxed, state.

* Six exercise themes (heaviness, warmth, breathing, abdomen, forehead, and organ specific).

• Autogenic Training

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• Breathing Practices

- The purpose of breathing

practices is to increase

circulation to all

(lower as well as upper) lung tissue.

- Promotes oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange (improved healing of cells throughout the body).

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• Guided Imagery

- thought process that

invokes and uses all

the senses

- vision, audition, smell, taste, movement, and touch

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• Meditation

- sitting quietly and using various

techniques to cultivate stillness, or focused attention of the mind.

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Processing Thoughts and Feelings

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Processing Thoughts

  • Examining what you can change and can’t.
  • Where you can exert control.

- What outlets work best for you.

- How to tell the difference between a true intimate vs someone not really your friend.

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Processing Thoughts

Identifying cognitive distortions

- situation may have been awful when it

happened as a kid, but this is not that same situation.

- you’ll not always fail even though it was awful

that time you did.

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Processing Emotions

Expressing feelings good for your health?

Group psychotherapy for women with metastatic breast cancer found to be associated with greater survival.

2007 publication showed repetition

of this finding in women with

estrogen receptor (ER) negative

tumors (survival benefit of 21 months).

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Disinhibition (emotional expression and processing)


Subjects who wrote about thoughts and feelings regarding past traumas (vs controls who wrote about trivial events) (Pennebaker)

experienced …

enhanced T-cell responsivity

improved overall health

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Disinhibition Research (contd.)

However, research suggests …

for disinhibition – health relation to exist

previously blocked emotions need

to be expressed AND cognitively

processed, in a way where the

emotion is understood and

resolved (Pennebaker).

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Processing Emotions

What happens psychologically when you have feelings you don’t express emotions?

- Internal obstacle

- Use emotional energy to keep those feelings out of awareness

When you acknowledge those feelings as real,

they may have less control over you.

You’re in control to re-channel that energy.

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Processing Emotions

What happens biologically when you have feelings you don’t express emotions?

Pert hypothesizes:

-Stress prevents the “molecules of emotion” from flowing freely where needed

-Biological processes collapse into simple feedback loops

-By allowing thoughts and feelings to surface, peptides flow again, “returning the body and mind to health”.

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Mind-Body Medicine

What have you learned?

  • “Molecules of emotion”
  • Chronic stress and biological systems
  • Mind-body therapies
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Mind-Body Medicine

“the tomato fallacy”