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Meditators' brains function differently during sleep, Transcendental Meditation study finds
by Global Good News staff writer
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28 October 2013
The latest volume of scientific research on Transcendental Meditation has a section with compelling research on brain development related to long-term meditation practice.
'In the area of brain development there are some very interesting studies—particularly studies related to the development of higher states of consciousness and the measurement of that through the analysis of brain functioning,' said Dr Michael Dillbeck, editor of the recently published Volume 7 of Scientific Research on Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi Program: Collected Papers. Dr Dillbeck is an International Research Professor at Maharishi University of Management.
In a study published in 1997, scientists looked at EEG (electroencephalographic) brain wave activity of three groups of subjects: nonmeditators, people who had recently learned Transcendental Meditation, and those practising longer who were reporting a deep level of inner silent awareness during activity.* This is one of the experiences characteristic of the natural growth towards the state of inner freedom, fulfilment, and full development of life that is described as unfolding over time through the regular practice of TM.
The study looked at what happens in brain activity during sleep in these three groups, and the findings were published in the scientific journal Sleep.
Dr Dillbeck showed a graphic display of the study findings and explained what it meant. The chart graphed the power of the subject's brain waves in the 'theta-alpha region' during sleep. Theta-alpha waves have long been linked by neurologists with the simultaneously restful and alert functioning of the brain seen during Transcendental Meditation—it is a measure of 'how restfully awake you are', Dr Dillbeck said.
The subjects from all three groups had delta brain activity, a slow brain wave characteristic of deep sleep, but the new meditators had a higher percentage of theta and alpha power, while the long-term practitioners of Transcendental Meditation displayed by far the greatest theta and alpha power during sleep.
Said Dr Dillbeck about the results, 'We see a very steady increase of the degree of wakefulness during sleep as indicated by the restfully alert state of EEG even during deep sleep.'
He added that these results, as they seem to indicate a difference in physiological functioning correspondent with the description of higher states of consciousness, create 'a very powerful study'.
* During the practice of Transcendental Meditation, the mind effortlessly experiences quieter and quieter levels of thought. From time to time, the mind transcends (goes beyond) the activity of thought and settles down to a state of inner silence, known as the inner Self or pure consciousness—a state characterized by neuroscientists as one of 'restful alertness'. With regular meditation practice the silence and peace of this inner experience are described as naturally becoming integrated into daily living.
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