Current Research

 

The AME Center conducts research that spans levels, from the social and physical environmental determinants of health, to the cellular aging mechanisms. Since 2005, AME Center researchers have published hundreds of articles and chapters that have contributed critical knowledge to our understanding of the mind-body connection, in an ecological and biopsychosocial context.

Current Studies

BOOST and BOOSTer: Building Optimal AntiBOdies STudy

One of AME’s biggest highlights over this past year was to launch our COVID-19 vaccination studies, BOOST, and BOOSTER. Both these studies examine how the COVID-19 vaccine response is affected by factors such as age, stress, and sleep. While BOOST looks at the initial vaccine series, BOOSTER examines the antibody response to the initial COVID-19 booster. These studies push our vaccine research further by examining how antibodies are maintained over a 6-month period. Understanding factors that influence long-term antibody response may help us figure out ways to improve the durability of the vaccine protection against COVID and other diseases.

To learn more visit the BOOST Study Website

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The Clinical Effectiveness of Digital Insomnia Therapy (CrEDIT) Study

The Clinical Effectiveness of Digital Insomnia Therapy (CrEDIT) Study aims to test the therapeutic benefits of a digital sleep program for subjects diagnosed with Insomnia Disorder. Subjects will be recruited around the country and undergo clinical interviews before being randomly assigned to one of two different sleep improvement programs. The CrEDIT study will begin recruiting soon, so stay posted on our website for more information on how to join.

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The Cardiovascular, Sleep and Imaging Study (CASI)

The Cardiovascular, Sleep and Imaging (CASI) Study is one of the first studies of its kind to investigate the potential link between sleep disorders and cardiovascular health. In this study, healthy sleepers are compared to insomnia patients in their sleep physiology and arterial inflammation using a PET/MRI scan. The CASI Study is a pilot aimed to gather initial data for more larger studies in the future and will pave the way for more promising research on this important and prevalent topic.

 

 

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Brain Health Registry: Understanding the Experiences of Family Caregivers

The Brain Health Registry is an online research study designed to help researchers identify, assess, and monitor cognitive changes over time that are associated with brain aging.

The Brain Health Registry is open to all adults and currently has over 80,000 participants enrolled. Participants answer questions about themselves and their lives, and complete cognitive functioning tasks all from their own computer. Our team has implemented a specific set of questionnaires specifically for family members who are caring for a loved one with a disability or disease. We are trying to understand the benefits and challenges of being a family caregiver, with the ultimate goal of designing interventions to help caregivers thrive in their daily life.

Read more and enroll in the Brain Health Registry today at https://www.brainhealthregistry.org/

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The HEAT BED Study

University of California San Francisco scientists hope to determine how a single sauna session affects body temperature. This study is being run by Ashley Mason, PhD, of the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. The purpose of the HEAT BED study is to test whether a single sauna session can raise core body temperature to 38.5 C (101.3 F) and to study how peripheral body temperature changes before and after this single sauna session. 

Participants must be men or women, aged 18-45 years old. If you are interested in enrolling, take 10-minute survey to see if you’re eligible!

For questions or more information, visit the HEAT BED Study website or email [email protected].

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National Health and Growth Study

NGHS is a follow-up study to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Growth and Health Study taking place from 1987 to 1997. NGHS aims to look at how stress affects women's nutrition, health, and weight. In addition, the project focuses on factors related to children's weight, the transmission of stress across generations, and the correlation between race and health. We hope that knowledge acquired from this project and the original study will help improve women and children's health.

NGHS is being conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, in collaboration with researchers from the University of California, San Francisco. The project is funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

For more information or to contact the study staff, visit the NGHS Website

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Sleep and Social Experience Study

The Sleep and Social Experiences (SASE) Study investigates the role of social experiences on sleep. Healthy and normal sleepers are asked to visit our Sleep Lab for two consecutive evenings, during which time they are exposed to a variety of social experience tasks. After, participants sleep overnight in the lab. During sleep, we collect data related to cardiovascular physiology and polysomnography to examine how social experiences “get under the skin” to impact bodily processes and contribute to health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease (CVD). 

 

For more information or to contact study staff, visit https://www.saseucsf.net/

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Stress and Resilience Study (STARS)

The UCSF Stress and Resilience study is aiming to understand stress, and how daily habits such as breathing, physical exercise, or meditation may change how your body responds to stress and improve your mood and physical health. Enrollment has ended and the study is currently in data analysis. Check back for more updates soon! 

 

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HBI: UCSF Healthy Beverage Initiative Study

Cola being poured into a glassThe AME Lab is currently conducting the Healthy Beverage Initiative Study in conjunction with the UCSF Wellness Center. In response to the strong evidence base linking consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to chronic diseases (including obesity and diabetes), the UCSF Healthy Beverage Initiative (HBI) eliminated the sale of sugar sweetened beverages on all UCSF campuses and hospitals.

The HBI Study is comprised of two parts. The first part, the larger Parent Study, is a wide survey-based study that tracks the sugar sweetened beverage consumption of UCSF employees from before the sales ban to 12 months post-ban. The Metabolic sub-study is comprised of frequent sugary beverage-drinkers from within the Parent Study Sample. We will look at various signs of metabolic health, including body measurements, weight, insulin reactivity, and liver function, before and after the sales ban.

We are actively looking for full- and part-time Research Assistants to work with our HBI team. Please click here for more information regarding joining the HBI team

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Stress Free UC & Stress Free UC +Health

The Stress Free UC Study is a large-scale, randomized control trial examining the relationship between stress and mindfulness in UC employees. It is the first study of its kind, spanning five UC campuses, including UCSF, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Merced, and UC Riverside. This study is fully digital, and participants are asked to use a digital mindfulness application daily. Researchers at UCSF are partnering with the Healthy Campus Network to execute the two components of the Stress Free UCSF Study. The first component, Stress Free UC, is a broad, survey-based study tracking the stress and mindfulness of UCSF employees from before the mindfulness intervention to 12 months post-intervention. The second component, or the Stress Free UC + Health, is examining various signs of biopsychological health, including body measurements and biological indices, in overweight UC employees before and after the meditation intervention. Medical and employment records are also being collected to assess the real-life implications of stress and mindfulness on health.

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Past Studies

Social Status, Cellular Aging, and Mortality

Using data from a national health survey, this study will be the first to examine telomere length in a nationally representative sample, expanding on past findings linking socioeconomic status (SES) to shorter telomere length, and telomere length to mortality. The study examines these relationships in a racially and ethnically diverse sample, and moderating effects of genetic vulnerabilities, as well as mediating effects of health behaviors.

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Know Your Telomeres

The Know Your Telomeres Study examined change in telomere length as a function of health behaviors and stress levels over the course of one year in 250, 50 to 65 year old healthy and community-dwelling women. In the study, half the women were told their telomere length at the start of the study, and all women were followed for one year to examine the effects of information about one's own personal telomere length on behaviors, and the possible resulting changes in telomere length at followup.

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CRONA: Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition & Aging Study

In non-human species like rats, yeast, mice, flies, worms, fish, and even rhesus monkeys, caloric restriction causes lifespan to increase, sometimes by ten-fold. The Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition & Aging (CRONA) study tests whether long-term human calorie restrictors might also have signs of slowed aging. This project is in collaboration with former postdoctoral fellow Dr. A. Janet Tomiyama, now at the Departments of Psychology and Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University.

Learn more about this study from Dr. Janet Tomiyama in this video.

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RARS: The Relaxation and Retreat Study

Does going to a resort for a week have the same effects as being in a meditation retreat, at the same resort? With a collaborative group of researchers, we examined the psychological stress processes, self-identity, and aging biology of healthy women randomized into a resort or meditation retreat group. The retreat group was taught body and mind awareness, mantra meditation, and self-reflection. We are examining the short term changes in cell function and well-being (over days) and a month later.

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SHINE: Supporting Health by Integrating Nutrition and Exercise

SHINE is a clinical trial that examines the effects of two different 6-month weight loss programs for obese, non-diabetic adults on weight, body fat, and psychological well-being. The two programs both include nutrition and exercise components, as well as stress management techniques aimed at long-term weight loss. The key outcomes include weight loss and maintenance, body fat distribution, insulin sensitivity, psychological well-being, stress hormones, immune function, and cell aging.

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MAMAS: Maternal Adiposity, Metabolism, and Stress Study

MAMAS logoCarrying excess weight can increase the risk of health problems during pregnancy, and predicts excess gain during the short period of gestation. The MAMAS study is built on the premise that simple recommendations for diet and exercise may not be enough to help women maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy. The goal of the study is to learn if providing stress reduction skills and mindful eating training, in addition to encouraging good nutrition and physical activity, will help low- to middle-income overweight women achieve healthy weight gain during pregnancy and reduce stress. The study will also follow the health and temperament of the babies (led by Nicki Bush, Ph.D.)

Website: http://www.mamasstudy.com

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HEART: Health Enhancement Resilience Training: A mobile health intervention

Outline of a heartDrawing from principles of evidence-based mindfulness stress-reduction, we are developing and testing a smart phone application that aims to reduce stress, increase emotional resilience, and slow the effects of stress related cellular aging. The app will include very brief "in the moment" exercises, social interaction and bio-sensor monitoring (breath-rate and heart rate variability), as well as tracking and feedback. This project includes two main phases, (I) an iterative design approach with rapid prototyping and user feedback to determine effective messaging and feature design and (II) a pilot test of the feasibility, efficacy and effectiveness of the smart phone intervention by assessing app use and engagement, telomere length and other biomarkers of stress and cellular aging, and stress related behaviors.

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Mr. SAGE: Stress, Aging, and Emotions Study in Men

Mr. Sage LogoThis study examines bidirectional effects between daily psychological processes, stress arousal, and nightly sleep, among of fathers of children with autism spectrum disorder. A complementary study to SAGE (see above), it also examines daily dyadic interactions within couples coping with the stress of parenting and how these dynamics affect nightly sleep. Lastly, it examines how these relationships might change after a mindfulness based parenting stress intervention.

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SAGE: The Stress, Aging, and Emotions Study

Plant leavesSAGE, the Stress Aging and Emotions study for parents, is the third in a series of examinations of how the chronic stress of being a family caregiver affects cellular aging. Drawing on a sample of mothers of children on the autism spectrum, the study seeks to understand how psychological stress affects the body and mind. We aim to identify patterns of vulnerability and resilience to stress, to help with development of a hardiness intervention. We measure biological aging primarily by looking at immune cell telomeres, which form the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes, as well as telomerase, the reparative enzyme that keeps telomeres in good working order. Telomeres appear to act as a cellular clock that runs faster under physiological and psychological stress. The intensive study of resilient coping will help shape interventions.

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SEED: Stress, Eating, and Early Development Study

Environmental influences during the first years of life, beginning in the womb, are strong determinants for later life health. Accumulating evidence from prenatal programming and developmental research shows how early life stress and poor nutrition can affect health across the life course. Can better nutrition and lower stress during pregnancy improve a baby's nervous system development and metabolism? In this study, we follow the offspring born to women in the MAMA's prenatal intervention study. We examine how offspring body composition, temperament, emotion regulation, and executive function develop over the first four years of life, and whether those babies born to women in the intervention group develop more optimally than those born to women from a "treatment as usual group."

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