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Transcendental meditation was related to specific changes in the brain

A new study conducted at the IMT School for Advanced Studies in Lucca shows that the subjective feeling of well-being experienced by many people with the practice of meditation is related to specific changes in the brain.

The research, which appeared in Brain and cognition, examined the effects of the technique known as Transcendental Meditation (TM), which consists of the silent repetition of an insignificant sound, a “mantra”.

For the study, conducted at the Molecular Mind Laboratory (MoMiLab) of the IMT School for Advanced Studies in Lucca, the researchers enrolled 34 healthy young volunteers and divided them into two groups. The first practiced transcendental meditation 40 minutes a day in two sessions of 20 minutes each, one in the morning and the other in the evening; the second group did not change its daily routine.

At the start of the study, the researchers also measured the anxiety and stress level of all participants through psychometric questionnaires, as well as their ability to handle stressful situations. Each individual was also subjected to a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) test, in order to measure resting brain activity and changes in functional connectivity between different brain areas. After three months, the same tests were repeated at the end of the study.

The analysis of the data clearly showed that the levels of anxiety and stress perceived by the subjects who followed the meditation program were significantly reduced compared to those of the volunteers who did not practice MT.

Magnetic resonance imaging also shows that the reduction of anxiety levels is associated with specific changes in connectivity between different brain areas, such as precuneus, the left parietal lobe and the insula, all of which play an important role in modulating emotions. and inner states. In the control group, however, none of these changes were observed. “

Giulia Avvenuti, Ph.D. IMT schoolmate and first author of the study

“The fact that transcendental meditation has measurable effects on the” dialogue “between the brain structures involved in the modulation of affective states opens up new perspectives for understanding brain-mind relationships”, says Pietro Pietrini, director of the IMT school and coordinator of the study. “It also extends the results of recent research by suggesting that drug therapies and psychotherapy use the same biological mechanism.”

Transcendental Meditation has recently gained increasing success worldwide as a relaxation practice thanks also to the David Lynch Foundation, which co-financed the study together with the Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca Foundation. Founded in 2005 by director David Lynch, who is himself a longtime practitioner and advocate of the social value of transcendental meditation, the David Lynch Foundation promotes the practice of TM as an approach to reduce stress in schools (such as “Quiet Time”). -Meditate “Project of Lucca at the Pertini high school) and workplaces, and to build resilience in the victims of trauma.

“I am very happy with the results of this study which used the latest technologies to show the wonderful benefits for humans of TM. Now I am working to form my foundation also in Italy, with teachers who teach transcendental meditation in schools, places and other groups, reaching as many people as possible, “says David Lynch.

This new study, consistent with previous ones, shows that even a few months of Transcendental Meditation practice have positive effects on psychological well-being and that these effects are related to measurable changes in the brain.


IMT School for Advanced Studies of Lucca

Journal reference:

Avvened, G., et al. (2020) The reductions in perceived stress following the practice of transcendental meditation are associated with the increased regional connectivity of the resting brain. Brain and cognition. doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2020.105517.


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