New Study Shows Transcendental Meditation Technique Produces Profound Physiological Changes Within First Minute of Practice
"This is a significant addition to the existing literature on brain correlates of consciousness."--Bernard Baars, editor of Consciousness and Cognition
Is Transcendental Meditation the same as just sitting comfortably and resting with eyes closed, as some critics have contended? The answer is clearly "no," according to a recent study published by the peer-reviewed journal Consciousness and Cognition (Volume 8, 1999). The study found "profound physiological changes" occurring within the first minute of practice of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique, according to Fred Travis, lead author and Chairman of the Psychology Department at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa.
The changes included a shift to lower breath rate, increased adaptability (i.e., increased heart rate variability), and decreased arousal (i.e., decreased skin conductance levels). "It's as if we flip a switch to a restfully alert state rather than a slow metabolic change," said Dr. Travis, who heads the University's EEG Laboratory.
According to Bernard Baars, editor of Consciousness and Cognition, "This is a significant addition to the existing literature on brain correlates of consciousness. The number of published studies that add something new and significant in this field are small. [Dr. Travis] is to be congratulated for adding to that select number, and I hope [he] will continue to contribute to our slowly accumulating body of indisputable evidence in the future."
The study compared the physiology of meditators just sitting with their eyes closed for 10 minutes to their physiology during practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique for 10 minutes. The two 10-minute periods were separated by a 15-minute computer game to control for "carry-over effects." The results show statistically significant changes in the physiology in the first minute of practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. These changes continue throughout the 10-minute period.
NIH Awards University Two Major Grants This Year for Research on Cardiovascular Disease
Dr. Travis says that his findings are the latest in a series published in peer-reviewed journals that, together with recent grant awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), demonstrate the growing acceptance of the TM technique's scientific credibility. In the past few months, Maharishi University of Management has received two major NIH grants. In August, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute awarded the University a $2 million grant to continue a collaborative study on the TM technique and atherosclerosis at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. In October, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine awarded the College of Maharishi Vedic Medicine a grant for nearly $8 million to establish the first research center for natural medicine and prevention for minorities in the U.S. These two recent awards bring the total of NIH grants received by the University to more than $18 million in the past decade. The grants have supported several collaborative studies evaluating the effects of the TM program on hypertension and cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the U.S. "It is very rewarding to see the accumulating evidence on the distinct physiological state experienced during the practice of the TM technique," says Robert Schneider, MD, director of the University's Center for Natural Medicine and Prevention at the College of Maharishi Vedic Medicine. "The findings, taken together, suggest that the TM technique is enlivening the body's own self-repair and homeostatic mechanisms, which is the basis of preventing disease and creating good health."