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Brain researchers to demonstrate how students can overcome stress and function like top achievers
by Ken Chawkin, Maharishi University of Management, USA
Special to Global Good News

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1 February 2011

How can today's students overcome the debilitating effects of heavy stress—made even more difficult by the economy—in order to perform at their best? It is indeed possible, and two prominent brain researchers will demonstrate how and share their compelling research findings on Tuesday, February 8, during a free public lecture at the University of Chicago in the United States. (See below for the schedule of lectures at locations in the Chicago area throughout the week.)

William Stixrud, Ph.D., a prominent clinical neuropsychologist from Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, and Fred Travis, PhD, a neuroscientist and Director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, will discuss how meditation can affect functional integration of the brain and enable changes that result in dramatic reductions in stress hormones and cardiovascular disease.

Both doctors agree that students can use these same meditation techniques to help them reduce and overcome stress and pressure, perform better, and engender increased well-being and contentment.

Last week the New York Times covered a survey of 200,000 college freshmen that found that their emotional health was at the lowest level surveyed in 25 years. Dr Stixrud, who specializes in work with children and adolescents, responded,

''It is possible for students to 'have it all'—to experience high achievement in a competitive world and still have happiness and peace of mind.''

Dr. Stixrud's 2008 research found that middle school students with ADHD who practiced the Transcendental Meditation® technique twice a day in school experienced over 50% reduction in stress and anxiety, and improvements in ADHD symptoms.

During the lecture on February 8, Dr. Travis will also present a live demonstration of changed brain activity as a result of the Transcendental Meditation technique, and will discuss differences in TM from other mental techniques.

In 2009 Dr. Travis collaborated with the American University Department of Psychology in Washington, D.C. in the first random assignment study of effects of meditation practice on brain and physiological functioning in college students (International Journal of Psychophysiology, 2009). Dr. Travis and colleagues randomly assigned American University students to practice the Transcendental Meditation technique. Measured during the height of exam pressures, these students exhibited functional brain integration resembling that of gold medal athletes.

Non-meditating controls in this experiment were overwhelmed and displayed significantly less brain integration, which is brain functioning that was more fragmented and disorganized. Students reported being more anxious and irritable, reflecting the detrimental effects of college life on students.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Hypertension, December 2009, the Transcendental Meditation technique was shown to be an effective method of reducing blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and anger among at-risk college students.

''The problem is stress,'' says Dr. Stixrud, who has studied and lectured frequently on the effects of stress on the brain, particularly the developing brain. He added,

''The effects of stress are not pretty. Not only does stress interfere with functions such as attention, memory, organization, and integration, but prolonged stress actually kills brain cells and shrinks the brain's main memory structures. In fact, the top stress researchers in the world report that lifelong stress level is the best predictor of risk for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. In light of this research, I am increasingly struck by how counterproductive it is for students to learn in highly stressful contexts, since stress not only interferes with their learning and retention in the short run but also burns out their brains in the long run.''


Tuesday, February 8, 11:30 am
Diamond Bank, Conference Room, 1800 W. North Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Tuesday, February 8, 5:00 pm
University of Chicago, Harper Memorial #103, 1116 E. 59th Street, Chicago, Illinois
Sponsored by: Students Transcendental Meditation Association, University of Chicago
Contact: Dr. Carla Brown, Tel: +1 773-324-8695

Wednesday, February 9, 1:15 pm
Joliet Junior College, Joliet, Illinois
For information, call Pat Tinken: +1 815 280 6660.

Saturday, February 12, 2 pm
Oak Park Public Library, Oak Park, Illinois


The New York Times: Record Level of Stress Found in College Freshmen
YouTube: Dr. Travis: Transcending & Brain Research
YouTube: Dr. Travis: What's been missing from education?
David Lynch Foundation: School Projects
YouTube: What happens when you meditate?

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