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Slow Motion Therapy Keeps You Young

” what we do know is that stress can be a contributor to premature aging”

Chronic stress has been shown to have a number of negative health impacts, from insomnia to weight gain to an increased risk for heart disease — not to mention impairing the immune and digestive systems as well as the central nervous system. And when it comes to aging, we’ve all heard that worrying will give you wrinkles, but is the science there to back up the idea that stress accelerates aging? Although more research is still needed on the exact mechanisms by which psychological stress contributes to biological aging, what we do know is that stress can be a contributor to premature aging

For this article I would like to draw on an experiment that was conducted at Nova University’s Behavioral Science Center in 1978.  The principle investigator was Joyce Keen who conducted this study as part of her doctoral dissertation.



The study is called Hemispheric and Autonomic Laterality: Effects of Unilateral Repetitive Activation, and was conducted at the Nova University Biofeedback Laboratories, under the guidance of noted biofeedback pioneer Dr. Joe Kamiya.   The study involved 47 volunteer subjects, split between the experimental group watching my visual device, the “Kinoscope”, (see picture and description below) and a control group.  The experimental group is referred to as the “Right Hemisphere Activation” (RHA) group.  This group, in addition to watching the Kinescope, also listened to soothing music.  The control group, also referred to as the Left Hemisphere Activation (LHA) group, listened to spoken text while also seeing the text projected onto a screen.

Several biofeedback measures were recorded one each subject during the sessions:

  1. Bilateral skin conductance level (SCL), and
  2. Heart rate (HR)

Specifically, three hypotheses were tested:

  1. Individuals whose right hemispheres are being activated by the processing of repetitive spatial information should demonstrate shorter recovery following induced arousal than individuals whose left hemispheres are being activated by repetitive verbal information;
  2. Individuals whose left hemispheres have been repeatedly activated should score higher on post treatment verbal tasks; and
  3. Individuals whose right hemispheres have been repeatedly activated should score higher on post-treatment spatial tasks.

Each subject came to the laboratory three times a week for two weeks for a total of six sessions. SCL and HR were monitored for the entire 45 minutes of each session with time samples recorded every minute for each variable. The first 15 minutes of each session was a stabilization period. During sessions two, four, and six, three disruptions were randomly presented to elicit a startle response, allowing at least five minutes for recovery from each of nine disruptions. Visual startle consisted of turning on an overhead light; auditory startle was elicited by hitting a metal file cabinet with a hammer; and touch startle consisted of two taps on the right forearm by the experimenter. Time for recovery to baseline was noted in seconds.



RESULTS: The RHA Group Learned to Handle Stress Much More Effectively than the LHA Group

The resulting data was analyzed using various statistical techniques, and proved conclusive:  the subjects watching the Kinescope recovered from startle significantly faster than those in the control group.   In other words, after exposure to the Kinescope, the subjects in the RHA group were able to “relax” significantly more quickly than the LHA group.

Experiment Stat Result Table

The RHA group recovered significantly faster from startle than the left hemisphere activation (LHA) group, F (3, 43) = 20.80, p<.001 as determined by a MRM analysis.

Stress and Aging

Stress doesn’t just make a person feel older. In a very real sense, it can speed up aging. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that stress can add years to the age of individual immune system cells. The study focused on telomeres, caps on the end of chromosomes. Whenever a cell divides, the telomeres in that cell get a little shorter and a little more time runs off the clock. When the telomere becomes too short, time runs out: The cell can no longer divide or replenish itself. This is a key process of aging, and it’s one of the reasons humans can’t live forever.

Researchers checked both the telomeres and the stress levels of 58 healthy premenopausal women. The stunning result: On average, the immune system cells of highly stressed women had aged by an extra 10 years. The study didn’t explain how stress adds years to cells making up the immune system. As the study authors write, “the exact mechanisms that connect the mind to the cell are unknown.” Researchers do have a not-very-surprising theory, though: Stress hormones could be somehow shortening telomeres and cutting the life span of cells.

Stress and Disease

The practical applications of this finding alone are fairly intuitive as many current diseases are considered to be stress related.  The following list of stress related illnesses is taken from an article by By R. Morgan Griffin as a WebMD Feature, and was reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD:

  1. Heart disease. Researchers have long suspected that the stressed-out, type A personality has a higher risk of high blood pressure and heart problems. We don’t know why, exactly. Stress can directly increase heart rate and blood flow, and causes the release of cholesterol and triglycerides into the blood stream.  It’s also possible that stress is related to other problems — an increased likelihood of smoking or obesity that indirectly increase the heart risks.  Doctors do know that sudden emotional stress can be a trigger for serious cardiac problems, including heart attacks. People who have chronic heart problems need to avoid acute stress and learn how to successfully manage life’s unavoidable stresses as much as they can.
  2. Asthma. Many studies have shown that stress can worsen asthma. Some evidence suggests that a parent’s chronic stress might even increase the risk of developing asthma in their children. One study looked at how parental stress affected the asthma rates of young children who were also exposed to air pollution or whose mothers smoked during pregnancy. The kids with stressed out parents had a substantially higher risk of developing asthma.
  3. Obesity. Excess fat in the belly seems to pose greater health risks than fat on the legs or hips — and unfortunately, that’s just where people with high stress seem to store it. “Stress causes higher levels of the hormone cortisol,” says Winner, “and that seems to increase the amount of fat that’s deposited in the abdomen.”
  4. Diabetes. Stress can worsen diabetes in two ways. First, it increases the likelihood of bad behaviors, such as unhealthy eating and excessive drinking. Second, stress seems to raise the glucose levels of people with type 2 diabetes directly.
  5. Headaches. Stress is considered one of the most common triggers for headaches — not just tension headaches, but migraines as well.
  6. Depression and anxiety. It’s probably no surprise that chronic stress is connected with higher rates of depression and anxiety. One survey of recent studies found that people who had stress related to their jobs — like demanding work with few rewards — had an 80% higher risk of developing depression within a few years than people with lower stress.
  7. Gastrointestinal problems. Here’s one thing that stress doesn’t do — it doesn’t cause ulcers. However, it can make them worse. Stress is also a common factor in many other GI conditions, such as chronic heartburn (or gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Winner says.
  8. Alzheimer’s disease. One animal study found that stress might worsen Alzheimer’s disease, causing its brain lesions to form more quickly. Some researchers speculate that reducing stress has the potential to slow down the progression of the disease.
  9. Accelerated aging. There’s actually evidence that stress can affect how you age. One study compared the DNA of mothers who were under high stress — they were caring for a chronically ill child — with women who were not. Researchers found that a particular region of the chromosomes showed the effects of accelerated aging. Stress seemed to accelerate aging about 9 to 17 additional years.
  10. Premature death. A study looked at the health effects of stress by studying elderly caregivers looking after their spouses — people who are naturally under a great deal of stress. It found that caregivers had a 63% higher rate of death than people their age who were not caregivers.


Cultivating a less stressful lifestyle may not only promote healthy aging in its own right, but also by setting the foundation for other habits that are crucial to successful aging.

About the Author:

James Wilson is a senior generalist, engineering design consultant, BMI composer and performing artist, director for the One Mind Art Alliance.

Further information can be obtained by emailing the author at:





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