Neuroscientist Fred Travis, PhD, director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management completed his second study investigating the effects of Transcendental Meditation practiced on task performance and improved brain functioning in eighteen students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
This random-assignment controlled study, which was published in Mind & Brain, The Journal of Psychiatry, found decreased symptoms of ADHD in students practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique.
The study took place of a six month period of time at an independent school for children with language-based learning disabilities in Washington, D.C. This study showed improved brain functioning, along with an increase in brain processing; there was also, an improvement in the language-based skills, for those students with ADHD, who practiced Transcendental Meditation.
All the students were pretested, then using delayed-start or random assignment comparison groups, were post-tested at three and six months. The students in the delay group began learning TM after the first three month period, when they were once again post-tested.
The student were given a verbal fluency test, a psychological test in which participants have to say as many words as possible from a category in a given time (usually 60 seconds). This test measures the executive functions of the brain, including systematic retrieval of knowledge, initiation and simultaneous processing.
How well students were able to perform these tasks were dependent on certain basic cognitive abilities, including attention, spelling and vocabulary knowledge.
EEG (Electroencephalography, can be used to diagnose and accurately identify students with ADHD by measuring the varying relationship between theta brain waves and beta brain waves.
Daydreaming, drowsiness, and unfocused mental states are usually associated with a theta EEG reading of around 4 to 5 Hz, while a theta EEG reading of around 6 to 8 Hz indicates focus on mental tasks, for example memory, identification, and association.
According to co-researcher William Stixrud, PhD, a prominent Silver Spring, Maryland, clinical neuropsychologist, “Prior research shows ADHD children have slower brain development and a reduced ability to cope with stress. Virtually everyone finds it difficult to pay attention, organize themselves and get things done when they’re under stress,” he explained. “Stress interferes with the ability to learn—it shuts down the brain. Functions such as attention, memory, organization, and integration are compromised.”
Transcendental Meditation was chosen for a variety of reasons, the first being that TM has been shown to increase brain function. TM has been shown to effectively reduce stress and because stress is a key component effecting the lives of students with ADHD, for this reason Dr. Stixrud believed that this meditation technique would be the most effective.
The number one reason that TM would be an affective type of meditation is because it’s easy to practice and easy to learn, TM is a mantra based meditation technique, which means that the students didn’t have to learn to concentrate or control their minds, at least not to the degree that some of the other techniques would require.
Dr. Travis notes that TM, like all forms of mantra meditation or “automatic self-transcending meditation,” creates an experience known as restful alertness a state that’ associated with increased activity in the frontal and parietal portions of the brain, as opposed to the reduction in metabolic activity in the thalamus which is linked to hyperactivity.
According to Dr. Travis, “the repeated experience of the Transcendental Meditation technique trains the brain to function in a style opposite to that of ADHD.”
In a student-parent survey:
“Students reported that the TM technique was enjoyable and easy to do. They felt calmer, less stressed, and better able to concentrate on their schoolwork. They also said they were happier since they started TM. This correlated with reports from the parents.
At the end of the research, the parents completed a questionnaire to assess their perceptions of changes in five ADHD-related symptoms in their children from the beginning to the end of the study. There were positive and statistically significant improvements in the five areas measured: a) Ability to focus on schoolwork, b) Organizational abilities, c) Ability to work independently, d) Happiness, and e) Quality of sleep.”
The conclusion of the report was that the results were very promising and as Dr. Stixrud observed, “Significant improvement in the theta/beta ratio without medication and without having to use any expensive equipment is a big deal, as is significant improvement in student happiness and student academic functioning reported by the parents.”
It would seem that there is real hope for improved brain functioning in ADHD students who practice Transcendental Meditation or any form of mantra meditation. While further research is needed, it is seems there is hope for parents looking for a way to reduce their child’s need for medication. Read the full article…