Brief Mindfulness Training Reduces Salivary IL-6 and TNF-α in Young Women With Depressive Symptomatology

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Abstract

Objective: Pro-inflammatory cytokines have been implicated in the pathophysiology and maintenance of depression. This study investigated the effects of a brief mindfulness intervention on salivary pro-inflammatory correlates of depression (IL-6, TNF-α) and self-reported symptoms of depression in college women. Methods: Sixty-four females with a cut score of ≥16 on the Center for Epidemiological Studies for Depression Scale (CES-D) were assigned to a 4-week mindfulness-based intervention (MBI; N = 31) or a contact-control group (N = 33). For both groups, salivary cytokines and depressive symptoms were assessed at baseline and posttreatment. For the mindfulness group only, salivary cytokines were also assessed at a 3-month follow-up. Results: Both groups showed similar reductions in depression. However, MBI (vs. control) predicted greater reductions in IL-6 and TNF-α; changes in IL-6 were sustained at 3-month follow-up. Higher baseline depressive symptoms predicted greater reductions in inflammation in the mindfulness group. Conclusion: MBIs may reduce inflammatory immune markers commonly implicated in depression. Individuals with greater depressive symptoms may benefit more from mindfulness training. Although reductions in salivary cytokines in the mindfulness condition were not attributable to changes in depressive symptoms, future work should examine the possibility that such reductions are protective against the development of future depressive episodes.

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