New Study Shows Energy Healing Modality May Affect Gene Expression

IONS scientist Dr. Garret Yount, along with collaborator Dr. Dawson Church, is doing a series of exciting experiments on the effects of Emotion Freedom Techniques (EFT) on biochemistry and gene expression.

EFT is a noninvasive technique that uses elements of cognitive therapy and exposure therapy, and combines them with acupressure. It is one of several modalities that are considered “energy healing” techniques.

In their first study, Drs. Yount and Church looked at the effect of EFT on stress biochemistry [1], comparing cortisol levels in subjects who received either talk therapy, EFT, or rest. The results showed that anxiety and depression declined significantly more in the EFT group, while cortisol (a hormone indicating stress levels) also dropped significantly. This gave them the impetus to take their research to the next level and explore whether EFT can affect the expression of a panel of genes associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In a paper published last month Yount and Church share the the first evidence supporting this notion [2].

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Increasing evidence is emerging that the brain is largely shaped by our social experiences through neuroplasticity, Social experience may have more powerful effects on gene expression through epigenetics than classical heredity. The audience effect means that gene expression is more powerful when we are in the company of others than when we are alone. This research is converging with indigenous knowledge that healing occurs within the context of community and that our social relationships make us who we are. I will speak about the neuroscience, the indigenous knowledge, their convergence, and our research findings in relation to this, including the impact of healing circles/talking circles on symptom relief and quality of life in primary care, the power of group healing and peer counseling/support for people who have psychosis, and the role of group self-medical care on improving health for people with diabetes, asthma, and pregnant women with drug and alcohol problems. In all these contexts, the power of group and community for healing is demonstrated. We conclude with the implications for the future of medicine and psychology.

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