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Michelle Aiello

Undergraduate Major: Psychology

Future Plans: Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology

Michelle Aiello

Michelle Aiello was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She received her Associates in Arts from Miami Dade College. She is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in Psychology at the University of Central Florida. Her passion for translational research relating to anxiety disorders has led her to become an Undergraduate Research Assistant at UCF RESTORES, UCF's Anxiety Disorders Clinic, under the guidance of Dr. Deborah Biedel and Dr. Sandra Neer. Michelle is currently researching the effect compassion mediation has on heart rate variability of veterans with PTSD under the guidance of Dr. Ariel J. Lang as apart of University of California San Diego, STARS Summer Research Program. She plans to obtain her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in hopes of conducting research, becoming a college professor, and helping other first generation students achieve their goals.

Title: Is meditation good for the heart?: A study of the effect of compassion mediation on heart rate variability among veterans with PTSD

Conducted at the University of California San Diego, STARS Summer Research Program

Mentor: Ariel J. Lang, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego

Abstract: The present study investigates the effects of Compassion Meditation (CM) on heart rate and heart ratevariability (HRV) among veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). CM is a meditative practice focusedon the wish that others and the self may be free of suffering. CM has been associated with positive mood, a sense ofbelongingness, and reduction of anxiety, all of which may benefit patient with PTSD. In addition, past research hasfound various connections between HRV and meditative practices. Data for these analyses were drawn from the firstphase of a feasibility and proof of concept study of CM for veterans with PTSD. Seven veterans diagnosed withPTSD were recruited to complete CM in two-hour group sessions once per week for eight weeks. Veterans’ heart rateis recorded for 5 minutes before, during, and 5 minutes after each of the eight sessions. It was hypothesized thatveterans’ resting HRV would increase from before to after the group, while heart rate during meditation woulddecrease over the 8 weeks. If the results support this hypothesis then, CM may regulate the autonomic nervoussystem of veterans dealing with PTSD, providing an insight into one mechanism by which CM may be effective toreduce PTSD symptoms.