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Anxiety is a leading source of disability worldwide and current treatment methods are not beneficial for all individuals. There is evidence that meditation has mood-enhancing properties however the biological mechanisms are largely unknown. This systematic review investigates the effects of meditation on sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis activation measures. It focuses on studies collecting physiological parameters such as blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol, and peripheral cytokine expression. Overall the 23 trials reviewed trials indicate that meditation practice increases parasympathetic nervous system activation, as well as decreases anxious symptomatology in diverse populations. Further research is required to confirm these preliminary findings and facilitate implementation in clinical settings.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

Document Type

Open Access Book Chapter

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Open Access