By Margarita Nahapetyan
Meditation might help to increase the brain function and lower stress, according the first of its kind study that examined the effects of transcendental meditation (TM) on anxiety and brain functioning.
Transcendental Meditation is an effortless technique that includes practice between 10 and 20 minutes two times per day, sitting in a comfortable position with the closed eyes. TM is not a religion or philosophy and does not require any belief or change in a lifestyle. More that 300 research studies on Transcendental Meditation confirm a range of its positive effects for mind, body, and behavior.
For the current study, fifty volunteer students from different U.S. colleges, mostly in the Washington, D.C., area, underwent both physiological and psychological tests. The participants were randomly divided into 2 groups: one group was assigned to a Transcendental Meditation, while other students ended up in a control group.
Ten weeks later, the researchers found that meditation group students had significantly higher scores on a standardized Brain Integration Scale and showed improvements in attention, working memory, organization, thinking, behavior regulation and perception of the environment. Participants of this group also reported less sleepiness, less irritation, and said that they were less jumpy.
"The sympathetic reactivity and sleepiness decreased among the TM group, which corresponds to greater emotional balance and wakefulness," said Fred Travis, a lead author of the study and a director of the brain research center at the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa.
As to participants in the control group, they all had lower Brain Integration Scale scores, which indicates that the functioning of their brains was more fragmented. It means that their planning and thinking can be more scattered and disorganized, according to Travis. "The controls also showed an increase in sympathetic reactivity and sleepiness, which can correspond to greater anxiety, worry and irritability," he said. However, meditation seemed to buffer students against the stresses of college life, the research team explained.
The well established efficacy of meditation in order to fight stress and improve mental and physical health, supports the claim of many medical practitioners and educators that the technique would be beneficial not only for ADHD sufferers, but for their teachers and parents as well.
By comparing the effects of different meditation practices, previous studies have found that Transcendental Meditation provides deeper relaxation and is more beneficial when it comes to reducing anxiety, depression, and hypertension compared with the other forms of meditation and relaxation. Additionally, no other meditation practice shows the widespread coherence in different parts of the brain that can be seen with Transcendental Meditation.
The study was published in the Feb. 24 issue of the International Journal of Psychophysiology.