Posts Tagged ‘American University’

US Government National Health Center Highlights TM Study on Stressed College Students

May 14, 2010

Transcendental Meditation Helps Young Adults Cope With Stress

A recent study found that Transcendental Meditation (TM) helped college students decrease psychological distress and increase coping ability. For a group of students at high risk for developing hypertension, these changes also were associated with decreases in blood pressure. This could be good news for the many students experiencing academic, financial, and social pressures that can lead to psychological distress—especially in light of evidence that college-age people with even slightly elevated blood pressure are three times more likely to develop hypertension within 30 years.

Funded in part by NCCAM, researchers from Maharishi University of Management and American University studied 298 students from American University and other schools in the Washington, D.C., area. The researchers randomly assigned students to a TM group or a control (wait-list) group. They also created a high-risk subgroup, based on blood pressure readings, family history, and weight. The TM group received a seven-step course in TM techniques, with invitations to attend refresher meetings, and kept track of how often they practiced TM. At the beginning of the study and after 3 months, researchers tested all participants for blood pressure and psychological measures. The researchers noted that 30 percent of the participants dropped out before the end of the study.

Blood pressure decreased in the TM group and increased in the control group, but the differences were not significant overall (TM-control blood pressure differences were significant within the high-risk subgroup). However, compared with controls, the TM group had significant improvement in total psychological distress, anxiety, depression, anger/hostility, and coping ability. Changes in psychological distress and coping paralleled changes in blood pressure.

According to the researchers, these findings suggest that young adults at risk of developing hypertension may be able to reduce that risk by practicing TM. The researchers recommend that future studies of TM in college students evaluate long-term effects on blood pressure and psychological distress.

Reference

URL: http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/051410.htm

This page last modified May 13, 2010.

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TM activates DMN, the brain’s “ground state”

March 4, 2010

A new EEG study conducted on college students at American University found they could more highly activate the default mode network, a suggested natural “ground state” of the brain, during their practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. This three-month randomized control study is published in a special issue of Cognitive Processing dedicated to the Neuroscience of Meditation and Consciousness, Volume 11, Number 1, February, 2010.

Specifically, the study found the TM technique:

  • Produces a unique state of “restful alertness,” as seen in the markedly higher alpha power in the frontal cortex and lower beta and gamma waves in the same frontal areas during TM practice.
  • Creates greater alpha coherence between the left and right hemispheres of the brain suggesting the brain is working as a whole.
  • Enhances an individual’s sense of “self” by activating what neuroscientists call the “default mode network” in the brain. (This is considered the natural ground state of the brain, glimpsed by neuroscientists during eyes-closed rest but 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, Ph.D., coauthor and professor of psychology at American University.

“Research has already shown that simply closing one’s eyes and relaxing increases the default mode. 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, Ph.D., lead author and director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management. “Different meditation techniques entail various degrees of cognitive control. Thus, activation patterns of the default mode network could give insight into the nature of meditation practices.”

Previous published research, funded by the NIH, shows TM practice decreases high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, cholesterol, stroke, and heart failure.

Comparative EEG Tracings

These raw EEG tracings during eyes-closed rest (left) and Transcendental Meditation (right) represent 18 tracings over 6 seconds. The top tracings are from frontal sensors; the middle tracings are from central sensors; the bottom tracings are from parietal and occipital sensors [back]. Note the high-density alpha activity in posterior leads during eyes-closed rest, and the global alpha bursts across all brain areas during Transcendental Meditation practice.

eLORETA Images of Significance Differences

These are eLORETA images of sources of alpha EEG during TM compared to eyes-closed rest in the default mode network (the white areas).

Images credit: Cognitive Processing, Volume 11 (2010), Issue 1

Article title: A self-referential default brain state: patterns of coherence, power, and eLORETA sources during eyes-closed rest and Transcendental Meditation practice, DOI: 10.1007/s10339-009-0343-2

Laboratory Note: The work of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management is summarized and featured in this same issue:

AU College Students Reduce HBP, Anxiety, and Depression Through Transcendental Meditation

November 18, 2009

At-Risk College Students Reduce High Blood Pressure, Anxiety, And Depression Through Transcendental Meditation

The Transcendental Meditation® technique may be an effective method to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and anger among at-risk college students, according to a new study to be published in the American Journal of Hypertension, December 2009.

The Transcendental Meditation Program, a widely-used standardized program to reduce stress, showed significant decreases in blood pressure and improved mental health in young adults at risk for hypertension,” said David Haaga, PhD, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at American University in Washington, D.C.

This study was conducted at American University with 298 university students randomly allocated to either the Transcendental Meditation technique or wait-list control over a three-month intervention period. A subgroup of 159 subjects at risk for hypertension was analyzed separately. At baseline and after three months, blood pressure, psychological distress, and coping ability were assessed.

For the students at risk for developing hypertension, significant improvements were observed in blood pressure, psychological distress and coping. Compared to the control group, students practicing the Transcendental Meditation program showed reductions of 6.3 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure and 4.0 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure. These clinically significant reductions are associated with a 52% lower risk for development of hypertension in later years.

The findings are timely. Today, an estimated 18 million students are dealing with mental health issues on college campuses. Statistics from colleges nationwide indicate there has been a 50% increase in the diagnosis of depression, and more than twice as many students are on psychiatric medications as a decade ago. According to recent national surveys of campus therapists, more students than ever are seeking psychiatric help on college campuses all across the United States.

“This is the first randomized controlled study to show in young adults at risk for hypertension reductions in blood pressure that were associated with changes in psychological distress and coping,” said Sanford Nidich, EdD, lead author and senior researcher at the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management. “Previous research has shown that psychological distress such as anxiety, depression, and anger contribute to the development of hypertension in young adults,” said Dr. Nidich.

College students are particularly prone to psychological distress caused by interpersonal and social problems, pressures to succeed academically, financial strains, and uncertain futures. For the entire sample in this study, there was a significant improvement in students’ mental health.

“Hypertension is a common risk factor for cardiovascular disease in adulthood. Yet, decades of research show that high blood pressure begins in youth. This well-controlled clinical trial found that blood pressure can be effectively lowered in students with a stress-reducing intervention. This has major implications for the prevention of hypertension, heart attacks and strokes in adulthood,” said Robert Schneider MD, FACC, specialist in clinical hypertension, Director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention and study co-author.

This study was supported, in part, by a Specialized Center of Research Grant from the National Institutes of Health–National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and by the Abramson Family Foundation, David Lynch Foundation, and other private donors.

Facts on Stress and Young Adults

Hypertension affects approximately one-third (33%) of the US adult population.

College-age individuals with blood pressure (BP) elevated beyond the optimal range are three times more likely to develop hypertension than normotensives.

Psychological distresses such as anxiety, depression, and anger/hostility have been found to contribute to the development of hypertension in young adults.

In 2007, around 15% of students reported having been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives — up from 10% in 2000.


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