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Friday, May 4, 2012

Research Supporting the Effectiveness of Guided Imagery on Immune System Stimulation

Howard Hall, measuring the effects of healthy people imagining their White blood cells as strong as powerful sharks, found a number of subjects could demonstrate an increase in the number of lymphocytes as well as an increased responsiveness of the immune system after the session as compared to before [Hall H R1983 Hypnosis and the immune system. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 25:92-103].

K. Kolcaba and C. Fox measured the effectiveness of customized guided imagery for increasing comfort in early stage cancer. They found that listening to a guided imagery audiotape once a day for the duration of the study indicated a significant overall increase in comfort over time, and was especially salient in the first three weeks of therapy. [Oncol Nurs Forum 1999Jan-Feb; 26(1): 67-72].

L. Baider, et al. examined the long-term effects of relaxation and guided imagery on patients recently diagnosed with cancer at Hadassah University Hospital. Results showed a decrease in psychological distress and an increase in the patient's sense of internal control [Gen Hosp Psychiatry 2001Sep-Oct; 23(5): 272-7].

Dr. Alan Watkins states that every idea, thought and belief has a neurochemical consequence, which is what makes imagery such a significant mind-body bridge. He writes that the flow of neuropeptides from the CNS, which enhances or inhibits one’s immunology through two major neuro immuno modulatory pathways; neuroendocrine and autonomic, are critically important in maintaining health and fighting disease [Mind-bodymedicine: a clinician's guide to psychoneuroimmunology, Watkins, A. 1997Churchill Livingstone, NY].

D. L. Tusek and R. E. Cwynar of Ohio observed that patients often describe the experience in a hospital as overwhelming, evoking fear, anger, helplessness, and isolation. Tusek and Cwynar identify guided imagery as one of the most well-studied complementary therapies useful in improving patients’ experiences as they prepare for a procedure or manage the stresses of a hospital stay [AACNClin Issues 2000 Feb; 11(1): 68-76].

V. W. Donaldson in NC at the Center for Stress Management examined the effects of mental imagery on the immune system response, and specifically, on depressed white blood cell (WBC) counts. Results indicated significant increases in WBC count for all patients over a 90-day period, even when possessing disease and illnesses that would have predicted a decrease in WBC count [ApplPsychophysiol Biofeedback 2000 Jun; 25(2): 117-28].

D. S. Burns at the Group/Walther Cancer Institute found that individuals who participated in guided imagery sessions scored better on both mood scores and quality of life scores than those who did not. Interestingly, these scores continued to improve in the experimental group, even after sessions were complete, indicating that guided imagery is effective in improving mood and quality of life in cancer patients [J. Music Ther. 2001 spring; 38(1) :51-65].

Gaston-Johansson et al. of Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore, Maryland showed significant benefits from the use of information, cognitive restructuring, and relaxation with guided imagery in those patients with breast cancer who underwent autologous bone marrow/peripheral blood stem cell transplantation. This strategy was found to be effective in significantly reducing anxiety, nausea, and nausea combined with fatigue 7 days after surgery when the side effects of treatment are usually the most severe [Cancer Nurs 2000 Aug; 23(4):277-85].

D.A. Rapkin, M. Straubing, and J.C. Holroyd from the University of California, Los Angeles explored the value of imagery-hypnosis on recovery from head and neck cancer surgery and found there were fewer surgical complications and less blood loss during surgery [Int J Clin Exp Hypn 1991 Oct; 39(4): 215-26].

L. LeShan found that psychological conditions had an enormous influence not only on the production of cancer, but also on the disease’s evolution and even on the person’s response to a particular treatment LeShan L, Worthington R 1956 Personality as a factor in the pathogenesis of cancer: a review of the literature. [British Journal of Medical Psychology 29:49-56].

A study by J. A. Royle, et al. of Ontario, found that guided imagery was the intervention best used by nurses to decrease patient anxiety [Can Oncol Nurs J 1996 Feb; 6(1): 20-5].

A June, 2008 critical review in the International Journal of Neuroscience by Ephraim C. Trakhtenberg from the  Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, looked at the research on the effect that guided imagery has on immune system functioning and proposed direction for future research.

Trakhtenberg found that the studies suggest that guided imagery can reduce stress and up-regulate the immune system; that cell-specific imagery affects corresponding white blood cells (WBC’s)- neutrophils, or lymphocytes; that decreases in WBC count occur in the initial stages of GI and relaxation, due to fluctuations in WBC production or margination; and that changes in WBC count or adherence occur earlier in medical patients.  The investigator suggests that future articles define the ideal WBC count; investigate the effects of long-term practice of GI; and clarify the influence of cell-specific imagery on white blood cells.