Thursday, July 16, 2009

College students who meditate are better off

Times of India (July 17, 2009)

Students who meditate are better off when it comes to dealing with stress in college, according to new research at American U.

The study pointed out that such students also remain less fatigued and have more "integrated" brains. According to the researchers, Transcendental Meditation (TM) may be an effective non-medicinal tool for students to buffer themselves against the intense stresses of college life.

"The pressures of college can be overwhelming: 44% of college students binge drink, 37% report use of illegal drugs, 19% report clinical depression, and 13% report high levels of anxiety," said the lead author and director of the MUM brain research center.

Titled "Effects of Transcendental Meditation practice on brain functioning and stress reactivity in college students," the research is the first random assignment study of the effects of meditation practice on brain and physiological functioning in college students. For the study, the researchers roped in 50 students from American University and other Washington, D.C. area universities.

They then probed the effects of ten weeks of TM practice on "Brain Integration Scale" scores (broadband frontal coherence, power ratios, and preparatory brain responses), electrodermal habituation to a stressful stimulus, and sleepiness in the participants.

At pre-test, the researchers measured the physiological and psychological variables and then the students were randomly assigned to a TM or control group. Post-test was ten weeks later -- just before final exam week.

At post-test, the meditating students had higher Brain Integration Scale scores, less sleepiness, and faster habituation to a loud tone: They were less jumpy and irritable. "The pressures of college can be overwhelming.
  • 44 percent of college students binge drink
  • 37 percent report use of illegal drugs
  • 13 percent report high levels of anxiety,"

said Fred Travis, lead author and director of the MUM brain research center.

He said that the data from the non-meditating control group showed the detrimental effects of college life on the students. "The control group had lower Brain Integration Scale scores, indicating their brain functioning was more fragmented -- which can lead to more scattered and disorganized thinking and planning. The controls also showed an increase in sympathetic reactivity and sleepiness, which can correspond to greater anxiety, worry, and irritability" he said.

On the other hand, TM practice appeared to buffer the effects of high stress. Travis said: "From pre-test to post-test, Brain Integration Scale scores increased significantly, indicating greater breadth of planning, thinking, and perception of the environment.

The sympathetic reactivity and sleepiness decreased among the TM group, which corresponds to greater emotional balance and wakefulness. "These statistically significant results among college students suggest that the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique could be of substantial value for anyone facing an intense and challenging learning/working environment."

The study was published in a recent issue of the peer-reviewed International Journal of Psychophysiology. Source