Diazepam and Jacobson's progressive relaxation show similar attenuating short–term effects on stress–related brain glucose consumption
A non–pharmacological method to reduce anxiety is �progressive relaxation� (PR). The aim of the method is to reduce mental stress and associated mental processes by means of progressive suppression of muscle tension. The study was addressed to evaluate changes in brain glucose metabolism induced by PR in patients under a stressing state generated by a diagnostic medical intervention. The effect of PR was compared to a dose of sublingual diazepam, with the prediction that both interventions would be associated with a reduction in brain metabolism. Eighty–four oncological patients were assessed with 18F–fluorodeoxyglucose–positron emission tomography. Maps of brain glucose distribution from 28 patients receiving PR were compared with maps from 28 patients receiving sublingual diazepam and with 28 patients with no treatment intervention. Compared to reference control subjects, the PR and diazepam groups showed a statistically significant, bilateral and generalized cortical hypometabolism. Regions showing the most prominent changes were the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex. No significant differences were identified in the direct comparison between relaxation technique and sublingual diazepam. Our findings suggest that relaxation induced by a physical/psychological procedure can be as effective as a reference anxiolytic in reducing brain activity during a stressful state.