HPRIR faculty member, Christina Luberto, Ph.D., shares her research interests and reflects on her current work developing mindfulness-based interventions for patients with chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, in the February Osher Center for Integrative Medicine newsletter.

Research Assistant, Esme Goldfinger recently interviewed Christina Luberto, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School about her area of research. Dr. Luberto graduated our NCCIH-funded T32 post-doctoral program (HMS Research Fellowship in Integrative Medicine) in 2018. Her research and clinical interests focus on mindfulness-based interventions for emotional and behavioral health promotion in people with chronic illnesses, particularly heart disease.

Q: Tell me about your research interests

CL: I am interested in how mindfulness-based interventions can help people with heart disease and other chronic illnesses improve their health and quality of life. I am particularly interested in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which is an evidence-based, manualized 8-week group program that combines mindfulness meditation training with cognitive-behavioral therapy. MBCT has strong evidence to treat depression and anxiety, and I am interested in how to adapt this program to target the specific needs of people with heart disease, and what the psychological and biological mechanisms are that may lead to improved health. I am also interested in how meditation practices may lead to greater pro-sociality (empathy, compassion), including among people with heart disease given the interesting philosophical overlap between heart-focused emotions and physical heart health.

Q: What has been your most exciting or impactful finding?

CL: Since we are still in the process of collecting data on MBCT for patients with heart disease, so far I’ve been most excited about the results of our meta-analysis of meditation for pro-social outcomes (Luberto et al., 2017; Mindfulness). We systematically reviewed 26 randomized controlled trials of meditation interventions for empathy, compassion, and altruism, and found meaningful effect sizes for improvement in these prosocial outcomes, from some high-quality studies with low risk of bias. It was exciting to see that mindfulness and other meditation practices may not only benefit individual well-being but also collective well-being.

You can read the entire interview on the Osher Center website HERE.