Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Chris Koronakos

Second Advisor

Dr. Wayne Fuqua


A large number of studies have found that stress qualitatively and quantitatively reduces a variety of immune components. Several recent studies have examined relaxation skills and their ability to increase immune measures. The primary hypothesis of this project was that relaxation-visualization training (RVT) would enhance Natural Killer (NK) Cell Activity. Two other major hypotheses were generated: (a) RVT would produce beneficial psychological effects and, (b) increased psychopathology would be inversely correlated with NK levels. Six volunteer breast cancer patients who were at least 3 months post treatment were taught a passive form of relaxation that included visualizing an increase in their NK Cell Activity. They were studied using a single subject repeated measures multiple baseline design with 11 blood samples taken over a 20 week period with a 4 week baseline, a 6 week treatment, and a 10 week follow-up. While White Blood Count (WBC) did not increase, a MANOVA found a significant change for NK % Lysis ($p$ $<$.02). This supported the main hypothesis. A convex curvilinear relationship was established among the 3 phases, but no linear relationship was made. While psychophysiological responses did not decrease in arousal, five psychosocial measures (Anxiety and Manifest Anxiety on the MMPI, The Hassles Scale, Pre-Morbid Pessimism and Life-Threat Reactivity on the Millon Behavioral Health Inventory (MBHI)) decreased significantly indicating that the subjects experienced at least perceived reduction of stress from the training and verifying the second hypothesis. There was no relationship between psychosocial factors and blood measures, therefore, the third hypothesis was rejected. Implications of the results and future trends in the research are discussed.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access