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College students' brains improve with Transcendental Meditation, decline without it, new research reveals
by Global Good News staff writer
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9 January 2009
The International Journal of Psychophysiology recently published the first random-assignment clinical study on the effects of the Transcendental Meditation Technique on brain functioning and stress reactivity in college students.* Results indicate that Transcendental Meditation significantly improved students' brain function and reaction to stress. Those not practising Transcendental Meditation showed decreased brain function and other measures of decline in only 10 weeks, from pre-test to post-test in the spring term leading up to Finals' Week.
Typical college life—high pressure, interrupted sleep, alcohol and drug abuse—leaves its mark on the functioning of the brain, resulting in elevated stress and cognitive deterioration, according to the research article authored by Dr Fred Travis, Director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa, USA. Said Dr Travis, 'College is a time of great challenge for students. Most are making major life decisions for the first time. The academic, financial, and social demands of college can be highly stressful.'
The Transcendental Meditation Programme—a simple, unique mental technique practised for 15 to 20 minutes twice daily—has been researched extensively and found to be effective in reducing stress, and in improving health and learning ability.
Beginning in January 2006, scientists, including faculty of American University in Washington, DC, investigated the brain function, cognitive development, and health of 298 college students in the Washington area. Fifty students volunteered for a 10-week sub-study, and were randomly assigned to two control groups, either 'Immediate-start' or 'Delayed-start' for instruction in the Transcendental Meditation Technique. Research methods included EEG (brainwave) analysis combined to form a Brain Integration Scale and other empirically identified measures.
Data from the 'Delayed-start' group revealed significant decreases in Brain Integration Scale scores, increases in sleepiness, and impaired recovery from stress. In contrast, the practice of the Transcendental Meditation Technique by the 'Immediate-start' students appeared to buffer the effects of the high stress college lifestyle—students were less tired, recovered from stress better, and showed increased Brain Integration Scale scores, which is correlated with emotional stability, higher moral reasoning, and decreased anxiety.
Commenting on the significant findings of the study, Dr Travis said, 'We could speculate that frontal areas (of the brain) responsible for planning and guiding behavior—which are activated during Transcendental Meditation—may lead to better decision making and lifestyle choices.'
* Travis, F. et al., Effects of Transcendental Meditation practice on brain functioning and stress reactivity in college students, Int. J. Psychophysiol. (2008), doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2008.09.007
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