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Transcendental Meditation Resets Brain    Translate This Article
22 March 2010

Many people learn to meditate in order to relax and reduce stress, but few realise just how meditation produces these benefits. Often its effects on the mind and body are seen as no different to that of taking a short nap or practising deep breathing.

However, a new study on the effects of Transcendental Meditation, published in the US journal, Cognitive Processing, has added to the considerable body of research indicating that individuals practising the technique experience 'restful alertness'—a special state of deep relaxation, quite distinct from ordinary relaxation and sleep.

The researchers at American University in Washington, DC found that during Transcendental Meditation individuals were significantly more able to activate the brain's 'ground' or resting state, known to neuroscientists as the 'default mode network', which refreshes and resets the brain and is believed to be essential for good mental health and qualities such as creativity.

The three-month randomized control study appears in a special issue of Cognitive Processing dedicated to the neuroscience of meditation and consciousness, volume 11, number 1, Spring, 2010, which coincides with Brain Awareness Week in the UK and the USA.

The new study has built on developments in neuroscience in the last decade that have identified a natural 'ground state' of the brain to which it returns in order to reset. This has been termed the 'default mode network' and is activated when the individual is not focused on the outside world but on internal activity such as daydreaming, envisioning the future, retrieving memories, and gauging others' perspectives.

It is considered essential to creativity and our sense of 'self', and some neuroscientists believe it is deficient in illnesses such as Alzheimer's, autism and schizophrenia. The ability to control entry to and exit from the default mode is believed to diminish with old age.

Research has already shown that simply closing one's eyes and relaxing increases the default mode. The three-month American University study found, however, that this natural ground state of the brain is much more fully activated during Transcendental Meditation practice.

'The finding of significant brain wave differences between students practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique and those simply resting with their eyes closed is especially convincing because subjects were randomly assigned to conditions, and testing was conducted by a researcher unaware of the experimental condition to which the subject had been assigned,' said David Haaga, PhD, coauthor and professor of psychology at American University.

'A significant additional finding of this new study is that activity in the default mode increases during TM compared to simple eyes-closed rest,' said Fred Travis, PhD, lead author and director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management.

© Copyright 2010 Maharishi Foundation®

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