Quiet Time, Quiet Biology: Does a School-based Meditation Intervention Impact Stress Biomarkers?

Awarded Scholars:
Emma Adam, Northwestern University
Jonathan Guryan, Northwestern University
Project Date:
Apr 2018
Award Amount:
$135,830

Students living in disadvantaged contexts—including those from low-income backgrounds or racial or ethnic minority groups—encounter more life stressors than their more advantaged peers. Although the stress response system is adaptive in some situations, overly frequent, chronic, or traumatic activation of this system can lead to detrimental biological responses that are tied to poorer performance on a range of outcomes such as attention and academic achievement. Excessive activation of the stress system can also increase impulsivity and aggression, behaviors that are associated with school suspensions or involvement in the criminal justice system. At the same time, existing evidence suggests that meditation practice in schools may benefit students by reducing perceived stress and improving stress biology, contributing to better cognitive and behavioral outcomes. To study the effects of meditation on stress biolody, Professors Emma Adam and Jonathan Guryan of Northwestern University will extend their randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a school-based meditation intervention called Quiet Time (QT). Adam and Guryan will examine whether twice-daily school-based meditation affects biological stress markers in public high school students; whether the effects of meditation on stress biology are stronger for students experiencing higher levels of neighborhood violence; and the extent to which differences in stress biology are associated with academic and criminal justice outcomes.

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