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Alpha brain waves and coherence during Transcendental Meditation
by Global Good News staff writer
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9 October 2012
What happens in the brain during Transcendental Meditation?
Norman Rosenthal, MD, posed this question to an audience of medical professionals participating in a recent webinar.
Dr Rosenthal is clinical professor of psychiatry at the Georgetown University School of Medicine. He was previously a senior researcher for 20 years at the National Institute of Mental Health (US), where he led the team that first identified Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and pioneered the use of light therapy to treat it.
Dr Rosenthal explained to the audience that the unique experience of transcendence during Transcendental Meditation is reflected physiologically in brain wave patterns shown in EEG (electroencephalographic) readings of subjects practising the technique.
But how does EEG work?
'Each electrode is placed at a certain point on the scalp,' he explained, 'and from each electrode you are going to get a reading as to what is happening electrically in the brain just underneath that electrode. So you get a sort of three-dimensional view of the brain, and you also get a sense of what kind of electrical activity is going on.'
Dr Rosenthal explained that alpha wave rhythms, those associated with calmness, bathe the front of the brain during transcendence, when the mind is in its most silent and expanded state. 'That is what is found when you transcend,' he said.
Another brain pattern found during Transcendental Meditation is coherence. Dr Rosenthal showed a brain scan to demonstrate what he meant.
With coherent brain activity, the tracing of each electrode lines up with those of the other electrodes. This means that different sections of the brain are aligned with one another. Research shows that coherence seems to increase with the practice of Transcendental Meditation (TM), he said.
'What has been found is that, when you meditate . . . specifically when you do TM, brain waves in different regions of the brain become more coherent,' said Dr Rosenthal.
High levels of brain coherence are associated with skill and competence, whether in athletics, music, or business.
'It is a good thing to get greater coherence, and that is something that TM enables you to do.'
See related article: Transcendence during meditation 'flows over into the rest of the day'
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