During the Transcendental Meditation technique, testing has shown that there is greater inner wakefulness and the brain is working less and more as a whole, relative to eyes-closed rest.
by Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa, USA, The Review
26 February 2010
A new study out in February in the journal Cognitive Processing discovered that people who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique are able to systematically tap into a natural mode in the brain—a deep level of function that has been identified by scientists.
"An underlying state of the brain called the default mode network has become a hot topic in neuroscience, but scientists hadn't been able to find a way to systematically tap into it," said faculty researcher Fred Travis, lead author of the study. "When I gave a presentation about this study to neuroscientists, they were really interested to hear that this was possible."
The study, a randomized controlled trial, found that the source of higher alpha brainwaves during the Transcendental Meditation technique were in midline cortical regions of the brain seen during the default mode.
This state is associated with unfocused thought, Dr. Travis says. "Even when your eyes are closed, there's organized activity in the brain. But it's inner directed. Your cognitive processes aren't responding to tasks at hand, but are engaged in a sort of free-flowing thought. Research has shown that when you're most deeply in this state, you're not even aware of it, because your mind is so engrossed."
Dr. Travis said that based on seeing the activation of this default mode during the Transcendental Meditation technique, one can infer that the Transcendental Meditation technique leads to a state of "reduced cognitive load"—meaning that the brain is working less, i.e., less mental control and manipulation, less thinking— along with a heightened sense of self.
While research has shown that simply closing one's eyes and relaxing increases activity in the default mode, activation in this brain network was higher during practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique.
In addition, relative to eyes-closed rest, during the Transcendental Meditation technique there was higher power in alpha waves in the frontal cortex (indicating greater inner wakefulness), lower-power beta and gamma waves in the frontal cortex (the brain is working less), and greater interhemispheric coherence (the brain is working more as a whole).
"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.
"The current research on the default mode network of the brain is valuable to us, because we now have a concrete, measurable brain network that's being talked about in science that we can use to verify what we experience when we practice the Transcendental Meditation technique," Dr. Travis said.
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