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Transcendental Meditation buffers students against college stress: American University study published

Maharishi University of Management, USA    Translate This Article
28 February 2009

Research at American University shows students practicing Transcendental Meditation react better to stress, are less fatigued, have more 'integrated' brains.

Contact: Ken Chawkin
Tel: 1-641-470-1314

Transcendental Meditation may be an effective non-medicinal tool for students to buffer themselves against the intense stresses of college life, according to a new study published in the February 24 issue of the peer-reviewed International Journal of Psychophysiology.

''Effects of Transcendental Meditation practice on brain functioning and stress reactivity in college students'' is the first random assignment study of the effects of meditation practice on brain and physiological functioning in college students.

The study was a collaboration between the American University Department of Psychology in Washington, D.C., and the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management (M.U.M.) in Fairfield, Iowa.

Publication of the groundbreaking study was announced in a live webcast News Conference at Maharishi University of Management on 24 February with lead authors Fred Travis, Ph.D., Director of the M.U.M. brain research center, and David Haaga, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Director, James J. Gray Psychotherapy Training Clinic at American University.

Live EEG demonstration
The webcast also featured a live EEG demonstration of real-time changes in brain functioning during Transcendental Meditation practice in Patricia Spurio, a student who participated in the study.

Replays of the News Conference webcast may be viewed at:

The study investigated the effects of 10 weeks of Transcendental Meditation (TM) practice on 'Brain Integration Scale' scores (broadband frontal coherence, power ratios, and preparatory brain responses), electrodermal habituation to a stressful stimulus, and sleepiness in 50 students from American University and other Washington, D.C., area universities.

Physiological and psychological variables were measured at pretest; students were then randomly assigned to a TM or control group. Posttest was 10 weeks later—just before final exam week. At posttest, the meditating students had higher Brain Integration Scale scores, less sleepiness, and faster habituation to a loud tone—they were less jumpy and irritable.

''The pressures of college can be overwhelming—44% of college students binge drink, 37% report use of illegal drugs, 19% report clinical depression, and 13% report high levels of anxiety,'' said Dr Travis.

Travis said the data from the non-meditating control group showed the detrimental effects of college life on the students. ''The control group had lower Brain Integration Scale scores, indicating their brain functioning was more fragmented—which can lead to more scattered and disorganized thinking and planning. The controls also showed an increase in sympathetic reactivity and sleepiness, which can correspond to greater anxiety, worry and irritability,'' he said.

In contrast, Transcendental Meditation practice appeared to buffer the effects of high stress.

''From pretest to posttest, Brain Integration Scale scores increased significantly, indicating greater breadth of planning, thinking, and perception of the environment. The sympathetic reactivity and sleepiness decreased among the TM group, which corresponds to greater emotional balance and wakefulness.

''These statistically significant results among college students suggest that the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique could be of substantial value for anyone facing an intense and challenging learning/working environment,'' Travis said.

Patricia Spurio, one of the students in the TM control group, was carrying a full credit load, had a part-time internship, and helped organize a large rally on campus. ''For me the greatest benefit was being able to have these two 20-minute periods of meditation. I could feel my whole body releasing the stress of the day. When done, I felt rested and ready for more activity. TM helped me get through it all in a more healthy and balanced way.''

For more on the newly published study at American University, please visit the following:
- Brain Integration graph
- Habituation graph
- Photo: Dr. Travis prepares student Patricia Spurio for EEG Recording.

© Copyright 2009 Maharishi University of Management®

Global Good News comment:

Global Good News will publish more details about the American University study in the coming days; and will continue to report on articles about this research that have been appearing in the news media since the study was published 24 February.

Please also visit: news release and American University study.

For information about Maharishi's seven-point programme to create a healthy, happy, prosperous society, and a peaceful world, please visit: Global Financial Capital of New York.

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