01 January 2009

EEG brainwave coherence during Transcendental Meditation

Hundreds of Israeli university students and professors enjoy demonstrations of EEG brainwave coherence during Transcendental Meditation

More than 600 students and professors at 12 universities and colleges in Israel recently enjoyed presentations that graphically demonstrated the coherence-creating effects of the Transcendental Meditation Technique on the brain. The lectures were given by Dr Fred Travis, Director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management (M.U.M.), Fairfield, Iowa, USA, during his 12-day tour of the country.

With the help of Sheer-el Cohen, Transcendental Meditation Teacher and recent M.U.M. graduate, Dr Travis conducted live EEG demonstrations for the audience at each of his lectures, to illustrate the effects of Transcendental Meditation on the brain, including increased brainwave coherence during the practice. In addition, he compared the effects of TM to those of other meditation practices.

Among the universities Dr Travis visited were Weizmann Institute of Science, an international scientific research center located in Rehovot, Israel; Hebrew University in Jerusalem; Tel Aviv University; the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya; and Tel Hai College in Upper Galilee, said Dr Alex Kutai, National Director of Invincible Israel for the Global Country of World Peace, describing Dr Travis's tour on 23 December 2008.

Dr Travis had many personal meetings with Israeli scientists, who have since expressed interest in collaborating with him on researching the effects of Transcendental Meditation on the brain, behavior, and psychology.

Many students asked to be notified of upcoming TM introductory lectures. At Tel Hai College, where an audience of 270 students and faculty gathered for Dr Travis's lecture, TM Teachers have already made efforts to begin a Transcendental Meditation Club on campus, which will offer weekly introductory and advanced lectures on the programme.

Dr Travis began his lectures to the Israeli universities by introducing the prefrontal cortex—or 'CEO'—of the brain, which plays a critical role in directing and organizing input. 'The logical next step in the presentation was to address which factors contribute to the functioning of the brain's CEO,' Dr Travis noted. Among these factors, which he went on to discuss in detail, were normal brain development, stress, fatigue, drugs, and alcohol.

Beginning at age 12, he said, is when connections to the CEO gain a fatty layer called myelin, which speeds up the brain's processing of information up to twenty times. Although their brains contain the same connections as mature adults, children and teenagers process information in terms of the immediate present, rather than life's larger context.

When under stress, the brain undergoes the process of downshifting, Dr Travis explained, so that connections to the prefrontal cortex are reduced, while those to the brain's sensory and motor area are enhanced. 'In this way, the brain loses some of its organizing and decision-making power,' he added.

In a similar way, when one is in a state of fatigue, the CEO is the first part of the brain to shut down. In his lectures, Dr Travis presented results of an experiment tracking daytime brain activity of two samples of students: one having gotten a full night's sleep and one having stayed up all night. Data revealed that the well-rested group had high levels of prefrontal cortex activity the next day, while the sleep-deprived group had very little. Instead, the latter group experienced heightened activity in the amygdala, a portion of the brain governing intense emotions such as fear. 'When overtired, the brain enters fight-or-flight mode, treating every daily encounter as a threat,' explained Dr Travis.

The final factor Dr Travis discussed in his lectures was how drugs and alcohol affect brain function. When using substances on a regular basis, he said, functional lesions can form in the brain. 'This results because frontal areas of the brain's CEO are not being used.'

At this point in the lecture, Dr Travis explained how the Transcendental Meditation Programme leads to a distinct brain state, characterized by 'restful alertness'. During the practice of TM the brain ceases all activities of concentration and information processing, while at the same time achieving increased coherence and interconnectivity between its functions. Using the EEG monitor, Dr Travis demonstrated how, after only a few seconds of TM practice, the brain initiates global functioning—spontaneous coherence among localized parts. 'Long-term TM practice will lead to enhanced functioning of the brain's CEO, for improved abilities of judgment, moral reasoning, and spontaneous right action,' he said.

Lastly, in his presentation to Israeli students and faculty, Dr Travis contrasted the effects of the TM Technique to those of other meditation practices. During the practice of Zen and Tibetan Buddhist Meditations, the brain engages in concentration and intense intellectual activity, while during TM, the brain achieves a resting state while maintaining global alertness.

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