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Research at AU shows Transcendental Meditation buffers students against college stress    Translate This Article
3 March 2009

On 3 March 2009, reported: Transcendental Meditation (TM), a specific method of meditation, may be an effective non-medicinal tool for students to buffer themselves against the stresses of college life, according to new research conducted in part at American University.

The study 'Effects of Transcendental Meditation practice on brain functioning and stress reactivity in college students' was published in the February 24 issue of the International Journal of Psychophysiology. It is the first random assignment study to explore the effects of meditation practice on brain and physiological functioning in college students.

A collaboration between the Department of Psychology in American University's College of Arts and Sciences and the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management ( MUM ) in Fairfield, Iowa, the study investigated the effects of 10 weeks of TM practice on 'Brain Integration Scale' scores, electrodermal habituation to a stressful stimulus, and sleepiness in 50 students from AU and other Washington, D.C., area universities.

Dr Fred Travis, lead author and director of the MUM brain research center said that the pressures of college can be overwhelming—44 percent of college students binge drink, 37 percent report use of illegal drugs, 19 percent report clinical depression, and 13 percent report high levels of anxiety.

In the study 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.

Dr Travis reported that in contrast, 'Transcendental Meditation practice appeared to buffer the effects of high stress. 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,' Dr Travis said.

One student in the TM group reported that, 'For me the greatest benefit was being able to have these two 20-minute periods of meditation.' While participating in the study, the student was carrying a full credit load, had an internship, and helped organize a large rally on campus. '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.'

Contact: Maggie Barrett
Date: 03/03/2009
Phone: 202-885-5951

© Copyright 2009

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