Transcendental Meditation activates default mode network, the brain's natural ground state

March 4, 2010, Maharishi University of Management
These raw EEG tracings during eyes-closed rest (left) and Transcendental Meditation (right) represent 18 tracings over 6 seconds. The top tracings are from frontal sensors; the middle tracings are from central sensors; the bottom tracings are from parietal and occipital sensors (back). Note the high-density alpha activity in posterior leads during eyes-closed rest, and the global alpha bursts across all brain areas during Transcendental Meditation practice. Credit: Cognitive Processing, Volume 11 (2010), Issue 1

A new EEG study conducted on college students at American University found they could more highly activate the default mode network, a suggested natural "ground state" of the brain, during their practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. This three-month randomized control study is published in a special issue of Cognitive Processing dedicated to the Neuroscience of Meditation and Consciousness, Volume 11, Number 1, February, 2010.

Specifically, the study found the TM technique:

  • Produces a unique state of "restful alertness," as seen in the markedly higher alpha power in the and lower beta and gamma waves in the same frontal areas during TM practice.
  • Creates greater alpha coherence between the left and right hemispheres of the suggesting the brain is working as a whole.
  • Enhances an individual's sense of "self" by activating what neuroscientists call the "default mode network" in the brain. (This is considered the natural ground state of the brain, glimpsed by neuroscientists during eyes-closed rest but more fully activated during practice.)
"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.

These are eLORETA images of sources of alpha EEG during TM compared to eyes-closed rest in the default mode network (the white areas). Credit: Cognitive Processing, Volume 11 (2010), Issue 1

"Research has already shown that simply closing one's eyes and relaxing increases the default mode. A significant additional finding of this new study is that activity in the default mode increases during TM compared to simple eyes-closed rest," said Fred Travis, Ph.D., lead author and director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management. "Different meditation techniques entail various degrees of cognitive control. Thus, activation patterns of the default mode network could give insight into the nature of meditation practices."

Previous published research, funded by the NIH, shows TM practice decreases high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, cholesterol, stroke, and heart failure.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Paraplegic rats walk again after therapy, now we know why

March 19, 2018
With the help of robot-assisted rehabilitation and electrochemical spinal cord stimulation, rats with clinically relevant spinal cord injuries regained control of their otherwise paralyzed limbs. But how do brain commands ...

New research into letter-spacing could help improve children's reading

March 19, 2018
Increased letter spacing helps individuals read faster, but not due to visual processing, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Decision-making is shaped by individual differences in the functional brain connectome

March 19, 2018
Each day brings with it a host of decisions to be made, and each person approaches those decisions differently. A new study by University of Illinois researchers found that these individual differences are associated with ...

Scientists locate nerve cells that enable fruit flies to escape danger

March 19, 2018
Columbia University researchers have identified the nerve cells that initiate a fly's escape response: that complex series of movements in which an animal senses, and quickly maneuvers away from, something harmful such as ...

Decoding the chemistry of fear

March 19, 2018
Ask a dozen people about their greatest fears, and you'll likely get a dozen different responses. That, along with the complexity of the human brain, makes fear—and its close cousin, anxiety—difficult to study. For this ...

Kids with severe brain injuries may develop ADHD: study

March 19, 2018
(HealthDay)—Young children who sustain a severe head injury may struggle with attention problems as they grow older, researchers say.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.