Posts Tagged ‘quality of life’

New study highlights unique state of “restful alertness” during Transcendental Meditation

March 24, 2018

fMRI shows increased blood flow to frontal areas of brain and decreased blood flow in pons and cerebellum

Summary: A new study using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) suggests that Transcendental Meditation is associated with a unique state of “restful alertness.” The study, which monitored blood flow, found that, compared to eyes-closed rest, during Transcendental Meditation there was increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, indicating the sort of alertness also seen in other meditations. However, unlike other meditations, there was decreased activity in the cerebellum and pons, indicating deep rest.

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Mahone - side view fMRI

fMRI images show significant areas of activation during Transcendental Meditation compared to resting with eyes closed. Areas of activation (orange) included the anterior cingulate gyrus and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Areas of deactivation (blue) included the pons and cerebellum. These findings suggest the mind is alert but that mind and body are in a deeply restful state.

The Transcendental Meditation technique is said to lead to a state of “restful alertness,” and now a new study in Brain and Cognition using brain-imaging supports the assertion that during the practice one’s mind is alert but that both mind and body are in a deep state of rest.

Functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) patterns of 16 subjects during their practice of Transcendental Meditation found that, like meditations that involve focused attention or open monitoring, there was increased activity in the areas of the prefrontal cortex related to attention – indicating alertness. However, unlike other meditations, during Transcendental Meditation there was also decreased activity in the areas related to arousal – indicating deep rest.

“Given the wide variety of meditations that are practiced today, it’s important to distinguish among them in order to see the different ways they affect the brain,” said Michelle Mahone, lead author. “It makes sense that different approaches to meditation would use the brain in different ways.”

A state of restful alertness

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who introduced Transcendental Meditation in the West, taught that TM practice leads to this state of restful alertness. And over the past decades, researchers have sought to verify this claim scientifically.

Early research suggested that Transcendental Meditation practice lowers sympathetic nervous activity, as indicated by a reduction in skin conductance and plasma lactate – two physiological markers of sympathetic functioning – and a decrease in breath rate.

“This reduction in sympathetic activation results from gaining the state of restful alertness during Transcendental Meditation practice,” said Fred Travis, a coauthor of the study. “This restful alertness is the key to Transcendental Meditation. It’s a very different kind of rest than sleep. It’s rejuvenating and healing, as evidenced by a wide range of clinical studies, while at the same time it allows the person to experience deeper mental states – with profound implications, such as an ongoing experience of transcendence.”

The restfully alert state gained during Transcendental is more than a concept, Dr. Travis says. “These blood flow patterns give a physiological picture of the reality of restful alertness in the mind and body.”

Increased blood flow to prefrontal cortices

The sixteen subjects, who had been practicing Transcendental Meditation an average of 34 years, were each tested as they meditated for 10 minutes while the blood flow in their brain was monitored by an fMRI scan.

Compared to just resting peacefully with their eyes closed, the fMRI scan found an increase in blood flow in the bilateral anterior cingulate gyrus and bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortices – areas of the brain’s prefrontal cortex associated with attention and executive functions such as decision making, reasoning, working memory, inhibition, and reward anticipation.

Frontal blood flow is also reported during other meditations and indicates that the mind is alert.

Decreased blood flow to pons and cerebellum

However, unlike other meditations, during Transcendental Meditation there was a decrease in blood flow to the pons and cerebellum. The pons modulates the individual’s overall state of arousal and governs breath and heart rates. The decrease in activity in this brain area supports the experience during Transcendental Meditation of a deeply silent mind and rested body.

The cerebellum modulates the speed and variability of information processing, both related to coordination and motor control and to cognitive functions such as attention and language. The decrease in activity suggests that the body reverts to a more automatic mode without the need of cognitive effort to exert control.

Together the decrease in activity in the pons and cerebellum activity suggests an overall reduction in cognitive control and executive processing during Transcendental Meditation – as if the attentional system is at a balance point ready to act when needed, Dr. Travis said.

“By using the mind in a specific way, restfulness follows,” Dr. Mahone said. “While this may seem contradictory, this finding is compatible with other research supporting that meditation could be key to balancing the autonomic nervous system and improving quality of life.”

Natural tendency of the mind

This state of restful alertness is said to result from correct practice of Transcendental Meditation: without effort.

“Transcendental Meditation is effortless because it follows the natural tendency of the mind,” Dr. Travis said. “One begins the practice in a simple way, and then it goes automatically, without any analyzing or intention. Maharishi said that it simply follows the natural tendency of the mind to settle down to quieter states if given the opportunity.”

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About the Transcendental Meditation Technique

Transcendental Meditation® is a simple, natural technique practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. It is easily learned, and is not a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle. It doesn’t involve concentration, control of the mind, contemplation, or monitoring of thoughts or breathing. The practice allows the active thinking mind to settle down to a state of inner calm. For more information visit http://www.tm.org.

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“fMRI during Transcendental Meditation practice”
Michelle C. Mahone, Fred Travis, Richard Gevirtz, David Hubbard
Brain and Cognition 123 (2018) 30–33

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Reports: EurekAlert | Health Imaging: fMRI confirms state of ‘restful alertness’ during transcendental meditation | EUPB | Press Locker | Bioengineer.org | Science Newsline: Medicine | INTO.AI | The London Economic | Scicasts | SCIENMAG | The British Psychological Society’s Research Digest wrote an impressive review of the study (April 16, 2018) in their section: Brain, In Brief: First ever neuroimaging study of people in the midst of Transcendental Meditation.

Check out this infographic comparing different meditation techniques.

TM Reduces Veterans PTSD Symptoms by 50%

June 1, 2011

Veterans Show a 50% Reduction in PTSD Symptoms
After 8 Weeks of Transcendental Meditation

WASHINGTON | Wed, June 1, 2011, 9:00am EDT

Veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars showed a 50 percent reduction in their symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after just eight weeks of practicing the stress-reducing Transcendental Meditation technique, according to a pilot study published in the June 2011 issue of Military Medicine (Volume 176, Number 6).

The study evaluated five veterans, ages 25- to 40-years-old, who had served in Iraq, Afghanistan or both from 10 months to two years involving moderate or heavy moderate combat.

The study found that Transcendental Meditation produced significant reductions in stress and depression, and marked improvements in relationships and overall quality of life. Furthermore, the authors reported that the technique was easy to perform and was well accepted by the veterans.

The Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) was the primary measure for assessing the effectiveness of TM practice on PTSD symptoms. CAPS is considered by the Department of Veterans Affairs as the “gold standard” for PTSD assessment and diagnosis for both military Veteran and civilian trauma survivors.

The paper’s senior researcher, Norman Rosenthal, M.D., is clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School and director of research at Capital Clinical Research Associates in Rockville, Maryland. Dr. Rosenthal was the first to describe seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and pioneered the use of light therapy as a treatment.

“Even though the number of veterans in this study was small, the results were very impressive,” Rosenthal said. “These young men were in extreme distress as a direct result of trauma suffered during combat, and the simple and effortless Transcendental Meditation technique literally transformed their lives.”

The findings were similar to those from a randomized controlled study of Vietnam veterans conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. In that study, published in the Journal of Counseling and Development in 1985, after three months of twice-daily TM practice, the veterans had fewer symptoms than those receiving   conventional psychotherapy of the day.  In fact, most of the TM-treated subjects required no further treatment.

“Even though the combat experiences of OEF/OIF veterans and Vietnam veterans are quite different, the fact that our study corroborates the results of the previous study tells us that this technique has the potential to be an effective tool against PTSD and combat stress, regardless of combat situation,” explained Sarina Grosswald, EdD, co-researcher on the study.

Rosenthal hypothesizes that Transcendental Meditation helps people with PTSD because regular practice produces long-term changes in sympathetic nervous system activity, as evidenced by decreased blood pressure, and lower reactivity to stress. “Transcendental Meditation quiets down the nervous system, and slows down the ‘fight-or-flight’ response,” he said.  People with PTSD show overactive fight-or-flight responses, making them excellent candidates for Transcendental Meditation.

Rosenthal points out that there is an urgent need to find effective and cost-effective treatments for veterans with combat-related PTSD. “The condition is common, affecting an estimated one in seven deployed soldiers and Marines, most of whom do not get adequate treatment.  So far, only one treatment—simulation exposure to battleground scenes—has been deemed effective, but it requires specialized software and hardware, trained personnel and is labor intensive.

“Based on our study and previous findings, I believe Transcendental Meditation certainly warrants further study for combat-related PTSD,” says Rosenthal.

Rosenthal is the author of a new book, “Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transcendental Meditation,” which will be released by Tarcher Penguin on June 2, 2011. For those wanting to interview Dr. Rosenthal, contact his publicist, Dean Draznin Communications, Inc., 641-472-2257, dean@drazninpr.com.

Results of the new “PTSD and Meditation” study will be announced at special presentations: Tuesday evening, June 7, in New York City, and Wednesday evening, June 8, in Washington, DC.

Watch: Reduction of PTSD Symptoms in Veterans with Transcendental Meditation.

FACT SHEET

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • A new report paints a stark picture of the toll on the U.S. military of almost a decade of war: higher stress and lower morale. The report, released Thursday, May 19, 2011, at the Pentagon, relied on questions to soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan in July and August of last year and compared responses with similar surveys in 2005 and 2009. The report noted “significant decline in reports of individual morale” as well as “acute stress rates significantly higher” than in earlier years. Source: CNN: New Pentagon study finds psychological toll from years of fighting.
  • VA’s suicide hotline receives 10,000 calls per month from active and retired servicemen. There are 950 suicide attempts per month by veterans receiving care from the VA. 18 veterans commit suicide each day, 5 of them are under the care of the VA. Source: Army Times: 18 veterans commit suicide each day.
  • The Rand Corporation’s study “Invisible Wounds of War” revealed a disturbing truth about the health of our military as recently as 2008:  Over 300,000 returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD or major depression.  According to the Rand report, these “invisible wounds” take a high toll—impacting veterans’ quality of life, hindering their performance at work, straining their families, and placing them at greater risk for violent and self-destructive behaviors. The economic cost of these disorders is equally great—reaching as high as $6 billion over 2 years. Yet, despite the heavy toll of PTSD and depression, only half of affected veterans seek care, and only a third of those who do, receive adequate treatment. Thus, over 80% of affected veterans remain without needed help.

The Transcendental Meditation Technique

  • The Transcendental Meditation technique is an effortless technique practiced 10-20 minutes twice a day sitting comfortably with the eyes closed.
  • TM is not a religion or philosophy and involves no new beliefs or change in lifestyle.
  • Over 350 peer-reviewed research studies on the TM technique confirm a range of benefits for mind, body and behavior.
  • Several studies have compared the effects of different meditation practices and found that Transcendental Meditation provides deeper relaxation and is more effective at reducing anxiety, depression and hypertension than other forms of meditation and relaxation. In addition, no other meditation practice shows the widespread coherence throughout all areas of the brain that is seen with Transcendental Meditation.
  • The Transcendental Meditation technique is taught in the United States by a non-profit, educational organization.

Source: EurekAlert! Veterans show a 50 percent reduction in PTSD symptoms after 8 weeks of Transcendental Meditation.
The Huffington Post: Top Research Psychiatrist Promotes Meditation for Healing and Transformation.
Fox News.com: Could Transcendental Meditation Help Veterans Suffering From Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
The Epoch Times by Ginger Chan: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Reduced by Meditation.
Insidermedicine: Transcendental Meditation May Help Veterans with PTSD (Video)
ABC News/Health: ABC News: Meditation Heals Military Vets With PTSD
Medical News Today: Veteran PTSD Symptoms Significantly Reduced After 8 Weeks Of Transcendental Meditation
Click here for more articles and news videos on TM and PTSD posted on The Uncarved Blog.


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