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New published ADHD study investigated Transcendental Meditation because of improved brain function effects

Maharishi University of Management    Translate This Article
26 July 2011

New study shows Transcendental Meditation improves brain functioning in ADHD students

Continuation of Press Release: New study published 26 July 2011 in Mind & Brain, The Journal of Psychiatry (Vol 2, No 1)—ADHD, Brain Functioning, and Transcendental Meditation Practice.
The random-assignment controlled study found improved brain functioning and decreased symptoms of attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in students practicing the Transcendental Meditation® (TM) technique.

See also Part I of this press release — 'A non-drug approach to enhance students' ability to learn'.

What was Measured

Students were pretested, randomly assigned to TM or delayed-start comparison groups, and post-tested at 3- and 6-months. Delayed-start students learned TM after the 3-month post-test.

EEG measurements of brain functioning were taken while students were performing a demanding computer-based visual-motor task. Successful performance on the task requires attention, focus, memory, and impulse control.

In addition, students were administered a verbal fluency test. This test measured higher-order executive functions, including initiation, simultaneous processing, and systematic retrieval of knowledge. Performance on this task depends on several fundamental cognitive components, including vocabulary knowledge, spelling, and attention.

Theta/beta power ratios during computer tasks in the TM group decreased compared to the delayed-start group after 3 months TM practice and continued to decrease at the 6-month posttest in these subjects. In the delayed-start group, theta/beta power ratios increased slightly from baseline to the 3-month posttest, and then decreased sharply after they learned TM (3- to 6-month posttest).

Theta/Beta Power Ratios and ADHD

Using EEG measurements, the relationship of theta brain waves to beta brain waves can be diagnostic of ADHD. Dr. Joel Lubar of the University of Tennessee has demonstrated that the theta/beta ratio can very accurately identify students with ADHD from those without it.

While theta EEG around 4-5 Hz is commonly associated with daydreaming, drowsiness, and unfocused mental states, theta EEG around 6-8 Hz is seen when one focuses on inner mental tasks, such as memory processing, identifying, and associating.

''In normal individuals, theta activity in the brain during tasks suggests that the brain is blocking out irrelevant information so the person can focus on the task,'' said lead author, neuroscientist Fred Travis, PhD, director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition. ''But, in individuals with ADHD, the theta activity is even higher, suggesting that the brain is also blocking out relevant information.''

''And when beta activity, which is associated with focus, is lower than normal,'' Travis added, ''it affects the ability to concentrate on task for extended periods of time.''

''Prior research shows ADHD children have slower brain development and a reduced ability to cope with stress,'' said co-researcher William Stixrud, PhD, a prominent Silver Spring, Maryland, clinical neuropsychologist. ''Virtually everyone finds it difficult to pay attention, organize themselves and get things done when they're under stress,'' he explained. ''Stress interferes with the ability to learn—it shuts down the brain. Functions such as attention, memory, organization, and integration are compromised.''

Why the TM Technique

''We chose the TM technique for this study because studies show that it increases brain function. We wanted to know if it would have a similar effect in the case of ADHD, and if it did, would that also improve the symptoms of ADHD,'' said principal investigator Sarina J. Grosswald, EdD, a George Washington University-trained cognitive learning specialist.

Dr. Stixrud added, ''Because stress significantly compromises attention and all of the key executive functions such as inhibition, working memory, organization, and mental flexibility, it made sense that a technique that can reduce a child's level of stress should also improve his or her cognitive functioning.''

Contact: Ken Chawkin
Tel: +1 641-470-1314
Maharishi University of Management

The study was funded by a grant from the David Lynch Foundation.

Global Good News will continue to feature the results of the new study in the coming days, including:
∙ more about why researchers selected Transcendental Meditation for the study, and about specific changes in students' brain functioning
∙ surveys assessing parents' and students' perceptions of improvements in the children's ADHD symptoms
∙ fact sheets about the Transcendental Meditation technique and about ADHD.

© Copyright 2011 Maharishi University of Management

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