Effects of stress and mindfulness on epigenetics

Author: Ayman Mukerji Househam1
1 Department of Social Work, New York University, New York, NY, United States; Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, NY, United States. Electronic address: aymanmukerjihouseham@gmail.com.
Conference/Journal: Vitam Horm
Date published: 2023 Mar 5
Other: Volume ID: 122 , Pages: 283-306 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1016/bs.vh.2022.11.003. , Word Count: 150

Epigenetics are heritable changes in the rate of gene expression without any modification of the DNA sequence and occur in response to environmental changes. Tangible changes to the external surroundings may be practical causes for epigenetic modifications, playing a potential evolutionary role. While fight, flight, or freeze responses once served a concrete role in survival, modern humans may not face similar existential threats that warrant psychological stress. Yet, chronic mental stress is predominant in modern life. This chapter elucidates the deleterious epigenetic changes that occur due to chronic stress. In an exploration of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) as a potential antidote to such stress-induced epigenetic modifications, several pathways of action are uncovered. The epigenetic changes that occur because of mindfulness practice are demonstrated across the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, serotonergic transmission, genomic health and aging, and neurological biomarkers.

Keywords: Chronic stress; Epigenetic age; Epigenetics; Meditation; Mindfulness; Stress; Subtelomere; Telomere.

PMID: 36863798 DOI: 10.1016/bs.vh.2022.11.003