Effects of the Transcendental Meditation Program on
Neurophysiology, Cognitive Development, and Health in College Students
JANUARY 1, 2007 — American University is in the midst of the largest study ever to evaluate the effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on college students. The two-year, $1.2 million randomized control study of 250 meditating students from American, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, and the University of the District of Columbia was approved by American’s Internal Review Board of scientists and physicians. The following is the project overview and the scope of research.
Previous pilot studies have found that the Transcendental Meditation program reduces classroom stress and other psychological disorders; improves physical and mental health, including the reduction of cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and negative health behaviors; decreases learning disorders such as ADHD; enhances intellectual development and academic achievement; and develops full brain potential. The present project will build on these earlier findings through a large-scale research and demonstration protocol that will evaluate the effects of TM practice on brain, behavior, and health simultaneously.
Three hundred undergraduate and graduate students from American University and surrounding college campuses will learn the Transcendental Meditation program during the two-year project. The research will evaluate the health and educational outcomes of TM practice in these students, with additional focus on students with learning disorders.
Over the course of the study, the 250 participating students will be measured at baseline and again after six months of practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. Approximately half the students will learn the Transcendental Meditation technique during the initial semester of the project (Spring 2006), with the other half serving as wait-listed controls during this time period. The control group will then learn the Transcendental Meditation program at the start of the next semester (Fall 2006), with follow-up for approximately one year.
Standard measures for all students in the study will include blood pressure, health behaviors (smoking, alcohol, and substance usage), psychological stress, emotional intelligence, practical intelligence, and academic achievement.
In addition, three subgroups of students (50–60 per subgroup) will be evaluated, respectively, for 1) neurophysiological integration, using EEG brainwave coherence measures, 2) cognitive intelligence, and 3) attention/inattention, using the Connors Continuous Performance Test and self-rating scale, for those students with a recent diagnosis of attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity.
Blood Pressure: Students’ blood pressure at each assessment will be measured three times with a mercury sphygmomanometer after five minutes resting without practicing any formal relaxation technique. Three readings will be taken one minute apart. The latter two will be averaged and taken as the clinic mean for that visit.
Health Behaviors: Smoking, alcohol, and other substance use will be assessed by standard questionnaires used in earlier studies. For alcohol, subjects will be queried by the Weekly drinking Recall (WR) method as to the number of drinks of alcohol consumed during the week prior to completing the questionnaire: 0, 1–4, 5–10, 11–20, and >20 drinks per week. Smoking will be assessed by the number of cigarettes smoked per day, and other substance usage by the number of times per week students engaged in nonprescribed drug use.
General Health Questionnaire: The Profile of Mood States will be used to assess depression and psychological stress, including anger, tension, and other factors related to emotional and physical health.
Emotional Intelligence: The Constructive Thinking Inventory will be used to assess emotional intelligence and general coping skills.
EEG Coherence: Factors from the Brain Integration Report Card, such as global coherence and power, will be used to assess student neurophysiological integration, which has been associated with development of higher states of consciousness.
The Ravens Progressive Matrices test will be used to assess nonverbal cognitive intelligence, or IQ, which has been found to plateau in the 20s.
Attention Deficit Disorder
The Connors Continuous Performance test will be used to assess inattention and impulsivity in a subgroup of ADD students with or without hyperactivity. In addition, students will also fill out a self-rating scale that measures behaviors related to ADHD.
With appropriate permissions, grade-point average will be collected for all student participants and pre–post intervention changes analyzed.
American University: David Haaga, Ph.D. Department of Psychology
Maharishi University of Management Research Institute: Robert Schneider, M.D. Sanford Nidich, Ed.D. Fred Travis, Ph.D.