Home Institution: Rowan University
My Driving Question
How can mindfulness as a self-care practice reduce the risk of disease and promote health?
Dr. Greeson is conducting research to understand how mindfulness, as a self-care practice, can reduce the risk of disease and promote integrative health. A small handful of recent clinical studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can modify gene expression in immune cells, opening the door to a new field of scientific inquiry that Dr. Greeson calls “mindfulomics.” This new field, however, is complicated by the fact that mindfulness is at once a state, a trait, and a skill one can develop through contemplative practice like meditation or yoga. Therefore, to advance our understanding of the impact of mindfulness at the level of gene expression, Dr. Greeson is examining the following research questions:
- What pattern of genes are engaged (i.e. genomic signature) in state mindfulness, when induced through meditation practice (e.g., mindful breathing) versus acute mental stress and quiet rest?
- What pattern of genes correlates to trait mindfulness, when quantified as ‘high’ vs. ‘low’ scores on a standardized questionnaire?
- What combination of genes are engaged in a successful treatment response to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and does this genetic pattern correlate to health outcomes, such as psychological well-being, quality of life, spirituality, sleep quality, and objective health measures like BP?
Mindfulness-based interventions that modulate the gene expression linked to the body’s inflammatory response, may offer a holistic, non-pharmacologic approach to targeting biological pathways implicated in a number of chronic, stress-related medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis, among others. Collaboration between basic scientists, clinical investigators, mindfulness teachers, and the community will allow Dr. Greeson to pioneer a new field of “mindfulomics.” This research will provide important insights into the potential power of a mindfulness, as a self-care practice, to reduce inflammation and the subsequent risks for chronic disease.
Dr. Greeson is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Rowan University in New Jersey, where he directs the Mindfulness, Stress & Health Lab and is Co-Director of Research for the Center for Humanism at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University. He received his BA in Psychology from Swarthmore College, a Masters in Biomedical Chemistry from Thomas Jefferson University, and his PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Miami. He completed his clinical internship and postdoctoral fellowship at Duke University Medical Center, and was on the faculty at Duke from 2006-2014, before joining the University of Pennsylvania in 2014, and then Rowan University in 2016.
Dr. Greeson’s primary research interests include the effects of stress on mental and physical health, and how effectively reducing stress can improve health and prevent disease. His interdisciplinary work in psychology and health integrates psychophysiology, psychoneuroimmunology, and “omics” (genomics & metabolomics) to study the mechanisms by which reducing stress can decrease susceptibility to stress-related disorders and disease progression (e.g., depression, insomnia, hypertension, HIV/AIDS). Dr. Greeson also has a long-standing interest in neuroscience, and has collaborated on multiple brain imaging studies to examine the neural basis of stress and depression vulnerability, and how mindfulness may induce therapeutic change through neuroplasticity. His translational research program has been funded by several NIH Institutes and Centers, including the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute (NHLBI), and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).
After completing a prestigious NIH “Pathway to Independence [PI]” award (K99/R00), Dr. Greeson was selected as a Fellow of the Nova Institute for Health in 2015. With over 50 peer-reviewed publications and more than 100 invited presentations, Dr. Greeson is nationally and internationally recognized for his research in the area of health psychology and integrative health. Given the emerging interest in mindfulness in psychology and medicine, Dr. Greeson is a highly sought after research mentor among students from multiple universities. He established the Mindfulness, Stress & Health Lab in part to serve as a training ground for undergraduate, graduate, and medical students, as well as postdoctoral trainees. As a licensed psychologist who specializes in Health Psychology, Dr. Greeson provides psychotherapy to patients who present with co-occurring mental and medical conditions, many of which are stress-related and amenable to mindfulness training.
Dr. Greeson is an active professional member of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychosomatic Society, and the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.
Education and Training
- PhD, Clinical Psychology, University of Miami
- MS, Biomedical Chemistry, Thomas Jefferson University
- BA, Psychology, Swarthmore College
- Elsevier Top 5 Highly Cited article for 2014-2015 (“A Narrative Review of Yoga and Mindfulness for Addiction“), 2016
- Taylor & Francis Most Downloaded article for 2014 (“Randomized Trial of Koru”), 2015
- NIH Center for Scientific Review Early Career Reviewer, 2013
- Mind & Life Summer Research Institute (MLSRI) Senior Investigator, 2012
- SAGE Most Downloaded article for 2009-2010 (“Mindfulness Research Update”), 2011
- Distinguished Fellow, NIH/OBSSR Summer Institute on Behavioral RCTs, 2010
- George Fellow in Mind-Body Medicine, George Family Foundation, 2007-2008
- Scholar Award, American Psychosomatic Society, 2003 & 2006
- Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral NRSA, NHLBI Institutional Training Grant, 2002-2005
- Citation Award, Society of Behavioral Medicine, 2001
- Addressing Diversity in Mindfulness Research on Health: A Narrative Review using the ADDRESSING Framework
Cooper Rowan Medical Journal, 2019
- Mindfulness and physical disease: a concise review.
Current Opinion in Psychology, December 2018
- Effects of mindfulness training programmes delivered by a self-directed mobile app and by telephone compared with an education programme for survivors of critical illness: a pilot randomised clinical trial.
Thorax, January 2019
- The many facets of mindfulness and the prediction of change following mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).
Journal of Clinical Psychology, April 2018
- Dispositional Mindfulness Uncouples Physiological and Emotional Reactivity to a Laboratory Stressor and Emotional Reactivity to Executive Functioning Lapses in Daily Life.
Mindfulness, April 2016
- An adapted, four-week mind-body skills group for medical students: Reducing stress, increasing mindfulness, and enhancing self-care.
Explore (NY), 2015.
- Decreased symptoms of depression after mindfulness-based stress reduction: Potential moderating effects of religiosity, spirituality, trait mindfulness, gender, and age.
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2015.
- An adapted mindfulness-based stress reduction program for elders in a continuing care retirement community: Quantitative & qualitative results from a pilot randomized controlled trial.
Journal of Applied Gerontology, 2015.
- Hair cortisol as a biomarker of stress in mindfulness training for smokers.
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2014.
- A randomized controlled trial of Koru: A mindfulness training program for college students and other emerging adults.
Journal of American College Health, 2014.
- Development and preliminary evaluation of a telephone-based mindfulness training intervention for survivors of critical illness.
Annals of the American Thoracic Society, 2014.
- Mindfulness and rumination and as predictors of persistence with a distress tolerance task.
Personality and Individual Differences, 2014.
- Pilates, mindfulness, and somatic education. Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices, 2013.
- A narrative review of yoga and mindfulness as complementary therapies for addiction.
Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 2013.
- See articles & papers on PubMed