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Posted: 7/10/2008

Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing (JHUSON) student Amy Goh '09 is the recipient of the University Provost's Undergraduate Fall 2008 Research Award. Gohs project, Yoga and Cortisol Levels in Victims of Intimate Partner Violence Residing at the House of Ruth Maryland, will measure the effectiveness of yoga on the mental health of victims of domestic violence.

"The project will not only provide access for the women at the House of Ruth to alternative therapy, but hopefully provide evidence to legitimize the integration of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) into community health programs," Goh said.

Under the guidance of JHUSON professor Phyllis Sharps, PhD, RN, FAAN, Chair of the Department of Community Public Health, and professor Gayle Page, DNSc, RN, FAAN, Director of the Center for Nursing Research and Sponsored Projects, Goh will study a sample of ten victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) by analyzing salivary cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone known for regulating immune response, and is controlled by the adrenal cortex. Elevated levels of cortisol can have a negative impact on a variety bodily tissue and function, including sleep, mood, bone health, ligament health, and cardiovascular health. Elevated cortisol levels may ultimately lead to a state of chronic muscle breakdown and suppressed immune function, increasing the risk of illness and injury. Yoga is one of the more effective techniques to help the body return to its relaxation state, the counterpart of the "flight-or-fight" response during which cortisol is released into the bloodstream in response to stress. Dr. Page will analyze the salivary cortisol levels using enzyme immunoassay (EIA) kits, a biochemical technique used to detect the presence of antibodies.

In addition to the salivary cortisol test, a demographic questionnaire will be administered to help gather additional information such as age, marital status, and years of education. Participants in the sample study will also take five days of yoga classes, and cortisol samples will be taken before and after the classes. The test group will then follow up with a self-reported Center for Epidemiologic Studies Short Depression Scale (CES-D 10) and Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. After gathering the salivary samples, questionnaires, self-reported depression results, and performing yoga, the data will be evaluated by Goh and facilitated by Sharps and Page.

In her proposal, Goh states that "the research expects to find victims of IPV to suffer from PTSD [posttraumatic stress disorder] and/or depressive symptoms. Positive findings will indicate that symptoms of depression will be reducedafter the five days of yoga intervention." If the results are positive, Goh hopes that low-cost CAM can be used in other healthcare settings to help reduce the risk of developing chronic health issues.

The award is given annually by Johns Hopkins University to encourage baccalaureate students to engage in research activity.