An Unexpected Collaboration

You might not see it right away, but there is a connection between SUNY Cobleskill’s Applied Psychology and Sport and Exercise Programs. It stems from a research project extending into the fall of 2019.

Led by Applied Psychology student Sabrina Cassese, with guidance from faculty members Drs. Amy Corbett and Mary Guerrant, the project examines the impact of meditation on stress levels. Students in the Sport and Exercise Program – under the supervision of Director of Athletics Marie Curran-Headley, and Associate Athletic Director Mary Irving – are asked to meditate in the College’s Plant Conservatory, meditate independently, or to not meditate. Cassese then gathers data gauging the degree to which mediation impacts stress.

“We presumed there would be physiological benefits to meditation of any kind, anywhere,” says Cassese. “We learned mediation versus non-meditation has a benefit we can measure.” For this research, “non-meditation” includes everything from a completely bypassing meditation, to quiet leisure time.

Launching the research is a first step. With more time to add variables, Cassese and Dr. Corbett intend to make refinements.

“Everyone has a different perspective on what it means to be ‘stressed,’” says Dr. Corbett. “What we can do is break the research down into a physiological gauge and a psychological gauge… We are letting the reins loose and looking at some psychological variables we know are related to neurotransmitter levels.” Some variables, like MRIs and blood samples, are impractical – though in furthering this research Cassese says she would be able to look at neurotransmitter changes in the brain as a consequence of meditation. Taking these measurables into account, and expanding on how she might do so, were components of the proposal she was tasked with writing in order to get the green light from Dr. Corbett.

“This is not something I would typically do until internship or graduate level,” says Cassese. “I am able to familiarize myself early with psych research, and see bits of coursework come to life.”

Feature photo: L to R, Marie Curran-Headley, Mary Irving, Dr. Amy Corbett, Sabrina Cassese, and Dr. Mary Guerrant are teaming up on a student-led, interdisciplinary research project.

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