ADHD, Brain Functioning, and Transcendental Meditation Practice
This random-assignment pilot study investigated effects of Transcendental Meditation (TM) practice on task performance and brain functioning in 18 ADHD students, age 11Á14 years. Students were pretested, randomly assigned to TM or delayed-start comparison groups, and posttested at 3-and 6-months. Delayed-start students learned TM after the 3-month posttest. Three months TM practice resulted in significant decreases in theta/beta ratios, increased theta coherence, a trend for increased alpha and beta1 coherence, and increased Letter Fluency. The delayed-start group similarly had decreased theta/beta ratios and increased letter fluency at the 6-month posttest, after they practiced TM for 3 months. Also, all students significantly improved on five ADHD-symptoms over the six months of the study, as reported in the parent's survey. These findings warrant additional research to assess the impact of TM practice as a nondrug treatment of ADHD.
ADHD, Brain Functioning, and Transcendental Meditation
, Sarina Grosswald
and William Stixrud
Director, Center for the Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition, 1000 North 4th Street, Fairfield, IA 52557, USA;
Maharishi University of Management
Research Institute, Maharishi Vedic City, IA 52557, USA and
Department of Psychiatry, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences,
Washington, DC 20057, USA
This random-assignment pilot study investigated effects of Transcendental Meditation (TM) practice on task performance and brain
functioning in 18 ADHD students, age 1114 years. Students were pretested, randomly assigned to TM or delayed-start comparison groups,
and posttested at 3- and 6-months. Delayed-start students learned TM after the 3-month posttest. Three months TM practice resulted in
significant decreases in theta/beta ratios, increased theta coherence, a trend for increased alpha and beta1 coherence, and increased Letter
Fluency. The delayed-start group similarly had decreased theta/beta ratios and increased letter fluency at the 6-month posttest, after they
practiced TM for 3 months. Also, all students significantly improved on five ADHD-symptoms over the six months of the study, as reported in
the parent’s survey. These findings warrant additional research to assess the impact of TM practice as a nondrug treatment of ADHD.
Keywords: ADHD, brain, Transcendental Meditation, coherence, theta/beta ratios, learning disabilities
Correspondence: Frederick Travis, PhD, Director, Center for the Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition, 1000 North 4th Street, Fairfield, IA
52557, USA. Tel/Fax: 641 472 1209; e-mail: email@example.com
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)*character-
ized by inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity*is
diagnosed in 8% of children age 417 years.
associated with increased risk of ADHD include unhealthy
maternal lifestyle (drinking and smoking), premature birth
and low birth weight, and poor early childhood care.
researchers also theorize that there is a genetic factor
associated with ADHD.
Studies identify imbalances
in dopaminergic and noradrenergic systems in ADHD
along with developmental abnormalities in
fronto-striatal circuits that lead to maladaptive response to
environmental challenge. These abnormalities include (1)
lower frontal metabolic rates as measured by PET
(2) lower myelination in frontal-striatal circuits,
(3) lower cortical volume in left frontal and temporal
The EEG studies report decreased activation in ADHD
populations in parietal cross-modal matching areas that weave
sensory input into concrete perception,
higher density and
amplitude of theta activity,
and lower density and ampli-
tude of alpha and beta activity.
Theta/beta power ratios are
highly correlated with severity of ADHD symptoms.
Normal adolescents exhibited theta/beta ratios from 2.5 to
3.5 in one study
; and 3.0 to 3.5 in another.
populations exhibit theta/beta ratios greater than 5.
normal adolescents, theta rhythms gradually increase in
memory tasks a few seconds before an anticipated response
and reach a peak immediately after the response.
memory tasks, theta EEG is generated in the hippocampus
and is thought to block out irrelevant stimuli during memory
In ADHD subjects, greater theta activity may
block out relevant as well as irrelevant information.
Another brain marker of ADHD is EEG coherence, a
measure that reflects the number and strength of connections
between different brain areas.
Adults diagnosed with ADHD
are reported to have lower alpha coherence,
children diagnosed with ADHD coherence in all frequencies
is reported lower.
The brain processes indexed by alpha
coherence have an important role in attention and conscious-
ness. They coordinate the selection and maintenance of
neuronal object representations, which are reflected in beta
and gamma activity.
Thus, lower alpha coherence in
ADHD populations could document disrupted working
memory and attention.
DRUG TREATMENTS OF ADHD
Most drug treatments of ADHD contain methylphenidate or
amphetamines that increase dopamine and noradrenalin in
the synapse by either increasing the release of neurotrans-
mitters or blocking their reuptake. However, up to 30% of
ADHD children either do not respond to, or do not tolerate,
treatment with stimulants.
Even for children who do
respond to medication, often the effect is modest.
addition, in some patients drug treatments result in disrup-
tions in sleep and appetite and increases in apathy and
depression, which significantly affect physiological, cogni-
tive, and behavioral functioning.
MIND & BRAIN, THE JOURNAL OF PSYCHIATRY RESEARCH ARTICLE
www.slm-psychiatry.com 73 M&B 2011; 2:(1). July 2011
BEHAVIORAL INTERVENTIONS FOR ADHD
Since ADHD may reflect a lag in natural brain devel-
can stalled brain development be jump-started in
some way? Brain circuits are highly plastic and are continually
sculpted with each experience.
Thus, behavioral inter-
ventions that activate frontal-striatal circuits could potentially
facilitate brain development in ADHD populations and so
improve executive function and cognitive performance during
As mentioned, the key brain circuits that are underdeve-
loped in ADHD populations include frontal areas (major
integrative centers), cingulate gyri (attention switching),
parietal areas (concrete experience centers), and striatum
(motor activation). One class of behavioral interventions
exercise the motor node in this circuit. For instance, the
Interactive Metronome, which involves matching a computer-
generated beat, would exercise motor circuits. This interven-
tion, however, has had limited benefits on reducing ADHD
symptoms in clinically controlled studies.
another nondrug intervention that teaches children to control
theta and/or beta brain activity by interacting with a computer
game. Although requiring many training sessions*45
sessions lasting 40 minutes each*neurofeedback is reported
to reduce ADHD symptoms
and reduce amplitude of theta
EEG with no effect on beta amplitude.
Meditation as a Behavioral Intervention
Meditation practices activate distinct brain areas, which
makes these areas progressively more available during tasks
For instance, Mindfulness Meditation,
in comparison with mental math, leads to increased blood
flow in prefrontal areas,
and to thickening of brain areas
involved with attention switching and perception of bodily
Preliminary research investigated effects of mind-
fulness training on 24 adults and 8 adolescents diagnosed
with ADHD, who received an 8-week mindfulness-training
program involving 2.5 hour sessions once/week and 45-min
daily meditation sessions at home. Seventy-five percent of
these individuals finished the 8-week program. After the
mindfulness training, both adults and adolescents exhibited
significant decreases in inattention and hyperactivity. Only
the adults also showed significant reductions in depression
Another form of meditation, the Transcendental Meditation
(TM) technique, is reported to lead to increased cerebral
metabolic rate in frontal and parietal attentional areas in a
; greater activity in prefrontal executive circuits
and anterior cingulate attention circuits in a MEG study
and higher frontal alpha1 power and coherence and higher
beta1 power in EEG studies.
Preliminary research with a
single group design with 10 ADHD children age 1114 years
reported that 3 months of TM practice resulted in significant
reductions in anxiety and depression and significant im-
provements in executive function and behavior regulation.
The current study extends the preliminary findings of the
effectiveness of TM practice on reducing ADHD symptoms by
using a random-assignment delayed-start design to assess
effects of TM practice on performance on standardized
measures of executive functioning and on brain wave patterns
(EEG) during a computer-administered choice reaction time
task. In this study we hypothesized: If TM practice activates
and strengthens frontal executive circuits, then ADHD
students who practice the TM technique, compared to
delayed-start students, should exhibit (1) lower theta/beta
power ratios, indicating greater brain activation during tasks;
(2) higher frontal, parietal, and anterior/posterior coherence,
indicating greater communication between brain areas during
a visual-motor task; and (3) improved performance on
executive functioning tests.
This is a pilot test of effects of TM practice on ADHD
symptoms. It tests whether middle school students diagnosed
with ADHD can learn and practice the TM technique, and it
investigates effects of TM practice on executive functioning
and brain functioning in these students.
All students attended an independent school for children
with language-based learning disabilities in Washington, DC.
All students received two clinical diagnoses. First, licensed
psychiatrists identified students with ADHD according to the
DSM IV-TR criteria and recommended that they attend this
school. Second, professionals in the school verified the
clinical diagnoses and placed them into their school system.
The curriculum at the school is designed to help students
with ADHD and other learning disabilities.
Twenty-four families responded to an information letter
about the study and volunteered to participate. Twenty-three
chose to participate in the study; the 24th student learned TM
but did not participate in assessments. Four students were
not part of the randomized study, because their parents asked
that they learn the TM technique immediately. The remaining
18 students were stratified by age, and randomly assigned to
learn TM immediately (TM group: 6 boys, 3 girls, average age
12.991.3), or learn TM in 3 months (delayed-start group:
7 boys, 2 girls, average age 13.091.6).
Table 1 presents the DSM-IV clinical diagnoses and medica-
tion use for the 18 randomized students. Comorbidities
included General Anxiety Disorder (3 subjects), Obsessive
Compulsive Disorder (1 subject), and Autism (3 subjects). In
each group, five of the nine subjects were on ADHD
As seen in this table, random assignment placed more
subjects with comorbidities in the TM group (4) than in
the delayed start group (1). Subjects with comorbidities may
be more resistant to change. Thus, this was a conservative
test of effects of TM practice on brain and executive
functioning in an ADHD population.
Written informed consent was obtained from the parents
and students before pretesting. The Maharishi University of
Management IRB approved the research.
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Students were pretested, and then stratified by age and
ADHD symptoms and randomly assigned to a group*
immediate start TM or delayed-start*using blind drawing
of names. Certified teachers of the TM technique went to the
school to instruct the students in TM practice*four con-
secutive days*and then for follow-up meetings once a
month. The students were instructed in the standardized
format to learn the TM technique, as described below. Four
teachers at the school learned the TM technique and
meditated with the children morning and afternoon.
Students were given paper-and-pencil tests in the school
during class time, and made individual appointments for
performance tests and EEG recordings. All students were
posttested at 3 months and 6 months. The delayed-start
students learned TM after the 3-month posttest.
Psychological Test Measures
Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS) Verbal
The D-KEFS tests executive functions such as flexibility of
thinking, inhibition, problem solving, planning, impulse
control, concept formation, abstract thinking, and creativity
in both verbal and spatial modalities.
It has been standar-
dized and used in both clinical groups and as a research tool
for increasing knowledge of frontal-lobe functions.
Verbal Fluency subscale was considered appropriate because
the school specializes in teaching students with language-
based learning difficulties. The Verbal Fluency test provides
information about the student’s word fluency and language-
related concept fluency. It also assesses the ability to shift
from one concept to another,
a difficulty associated with
ADHD. The measure also includes an Alternate Form, thus
reducing practice effects at posttest.
The analysis of the Verbal Fluency test yields four measures:
Letter Fluency, Category Fluency, Category Switching, and
Total Switching Accuracy. Letter Fluency is the total number
of words the student can think of that start with a specified
letter, in three 60-sec trials. Category Fluency is the number
of words the student can say that belong to a designated
semantic category (eg, animals, fruit) in two 60-sec trials.
Category Switching evaluates the student’s ability to alternate
between saying words from different semantic categories
within a 60-sec trial. Total switching accuracy includes the
number of responses and number of correct responses in
Tower of London
The Tower of London measures higher order problem
solving. Subjects are shown a configuration of colored balls
stacked on pegs. The subject executes a sequence of moves
that transforms his or her board to match the displayed
configuration with the balls arranged on designated pegs.
This analysis yields total correct score, total initiation time,
total move score, total execution time, total time score, and
total time violation. It has a reliability coefficient of .80 and
loads on a principle component analysis with other tests of
Two self-report instruments were administered at the end of
the study*one to the children and one to their parents. The
first one asked the children: ‘‘How much do you like your TM
practice?’’ on a 7-point Likert Scale*1 (Not At All) to 7 (Very
Much). The second scale asked parents how their children
had changed on five ADHD-related symptoms. There were
asked: ‘‘Compare your child before learning the Transcen-
dental Meditation technique to now. Indicate the degree of
change you have observed in the following areas: (a) ability to
focus on schoolwork, (b) organizational abilities, (c) ability to
work independently, (d) happiness, and (e) quality of sleep.’’
Responses were along a 11-point Likert Scale from 5 (Strong
Negative Changes) to 5 (Strong Positive Changes).
Other Psychological Tests
Four other tests were administered. However, because there
were incomplete data for these four measures, these data are
not interpretable. Thus, they will not be reported. The test
and the corresponding number of completed forms were:
Spielberger’s State and Trait Anxiety scale (TM 4,
Delayed6), SNAP IV (TM5, Delayed 5), the Teacher
BRIEF (TM3, Delayed5), and the Youth Self-Report
EEG Recording Protocol
The EEG was recorded during a computer-administered
paired choice reaction-time task to calculate theta/beta ratios
(Cz) and patterns of EEG coherence. The task began with a
one- or two-digit number (300 ms duration), a 1200 ms blank
screen, and another one- or two-digit number (300 ms
Table 1. DMV-IV Diagnoses and Medication Use for the TM and Delayed Start Groups
TM Group Delayed Start Group
ADHD Type ADHD Type
Subjects on ADHD
Medication Comorbidity ADHD Type
Subjects on ADHD
Inattentive 3 1 1 1 0 0
Hyperactive 2 1 1 2 1 0
Combined 4 3 2 6 4 1
Totals 9 5 4 9 5 1
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duration). Subjects were asked to press a left- or right-hand
button to indicate which number was larger in value. This
task was chosen because performance on this task discrimi-
nated meditating and nonmeditating college students.
The BIOSEMI ActiveTwo system was used to record EEG
from 32 locations over the scalp, following the 10-10 system.
Signals from the left and right ear lobes were recorded for
later re-referencing as a linked-ears reference. All signals
were digitized on line at 256 points/sec, with no high or low
frequency filters, and stored for later analyses using the Brain
The data during the task were visually scanned and any
epochs with movement, electrode, or eye-movement artifacts
were manually marked and not included in the spectral
analysis. The artifact-free data were digitally filtered with a
250 Hz band pass filter and fast Fourier transformed in
2-sec epochs, using nonoverlapping Hanning windows with a
10% onset and offset.
/Hz) was calculated from 2 to 50 Hz at the 32
recording sites. To investigate theta/beta ratios, power at Cz
during the task was averaged into theta (47.5 Hz) and beta
(1320) bins and theta/beta ratios were calculated.
Coherence patterns during the computer task were averaged
into 11 intra- and interhemispheric frontal coherence pairs, 11
intra- and interhemispheric parietal coherence pairs, and five
anterior/posterior coherence pairs. The 11 frontal pairs
included: AF3-AF4, F3-F4, FC1-FC2, F7-F3, AF3-F3, AF3-
FC1, F3-FC1, F8-F4, AF4-F4, AF4-FC2, F4-FC2; the 11 parietal
pairs included: CP1-CP2, P3-P4, PO3-PO4, P7-P3, CP1-P3,
CP1-PO3, P3-PO3, P8-P4, CP2-P4, CP2-PO4, PO4-P4; and the
five anterior/posterior pairs included: F3-P3, FzPz, F4-P4,
AF3-PO3, AF4-PO4. Averaged coherence was analyzed in
theta (47.5 Hz), alpha (812 Hz), beta1 (12.520 Hz), and
gamma bands (20.550 Hz).
Intervention: The Transcendental Meditation Program
The Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique is a mental
technique practiced for 10 min (for these students) sitting in a
chair with eyes closed. During TM instruction, the student
learns how to let the mind move from active focused levels of
thinking to silent, expanded levels of wakefulness underlying
Certified teachers taught these students the TM
technique using the standardized teaching format of four 1-
hour meetings over 4 days, followed by knowledge and
experience meetings every other week for the first few months
to assure correct practice. (See Travis & Shear
for a more
detailed description of the TM technique.)
After personal instruction, students meditated in a group at
school at the beginning and at the end of the day with a
school teacher, who was trained to lead the meditation. A
certified TM teacher met with students as needed to discuss
experiences, verify correct practice, and answer questions
about their TM practice. The group practice allowed easy
logging of compliance*as long as students were not absent,
they practiced TM.
The primary analysis was a between comparison of
differences from baseline to the 3-month posttest between
groups. The TM group had been practicing the TM technique
for 3 months along with the curriculum at the school; the
delayed-start comparison group had only been receiving the
curriculum at the school. This analysis is the strongest test of
the hypothesis. In this analysis, two repeated measures
MANOVAs were conducted*psychological and performance
variables in one and coherence in the other. An ANCOVA of
theta/beta ratio difference scores, covarying for pretest
scores, was also conducted.
An alpha level of .05 was used for these three initial tests. If
significant interactions were found, then further F-tests were
used for subanalyses. An alpha level of B.025 was used for
further tests. Partial eta squared (h2), the power statistic
reported for F-tests by SPSS, is reported for all analyses.
Partial eta squared is the variance accounted for, similar to r
A secondary within analysis assessed changes in the
delayed-start students comparing differences from baseline
to the 3-month posttest, when these subjects were not yet
meditating, to differences from the 3-month to the 6-month,
when these subjects were meditating. This analysis is an
exploratory analysis, since it is a single group design.
However, we expect to see a similar pattern of change as in
the primary analyses.
Feasibility of the Intervention
All students in the TM group and, later, all students in the
delayed-start group were able to learn the TM technique and
practice it successively. This was evidenced in their daily
group TM practice, which was done in the morning and
afternoon in groups at the school. Also, a questionnaire was
administered at posttest to assess how the students felt about
their TM practice. This questionnaire used a 7-point Likert
scale*1 Not-At-All to 7 Very-Much*to quantify the re-
sponse. Students reported that the TM technique was
enjoyable and easy to do (average 5.39.9). They may have
been able to learn and practice this meditation technique,
because TM does not involve concentration or control of the
mind*a challenge for anyone with ADHD. (For a detailed
discussion of mechanics during TM practice see Travis &
Changes in Brain Functioning
The ANCOVA of theta/beta difference scores, covarying for
pretest scores yielded significant decreases in theta/beta ratios
of EEG recorded at Cz in the TM group (F(1, 17) 4.7, p.05,
h2.24). Figure 1 presents the means and standard errors for
the theta/beta ratios at pretest and the two posttests. At
pretest, both groups were well above the average for theta/beta
ratios in normal populations. At the 3-month posttest, theta/
beta ratios increased slightly in the delayed-start group (dotted
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line with square markers), while the TM subjects (solid line
diamond markers) decreased*moved closer to normal values.
At the 6-month posttest after both groups were practicing the
TM technique, theta/beta ratios decreased in both groups.
Coherence Patterns: Quantitative Results
A repeated measures (pretest/3-month posttest) MANOVA
of coherence during tasks with 12 variates*coherence in
theta, alpha, beta, and gamma frequency bands averaged into
frontal, parietal, and anterior/parietal brain areas*yielded
significant frequencygroup interactions (Wilks’Lambda
F(3, 14) 4.70, p.018 h2.50). Thus, analyses were con-
ducted within each frequency. Significant group pre/postt-
est interactions were seen in the theta band (Wilks’Lambda
(F(1, 16) 5.60, p.031, h2.26), a trend for significant
increases in the alpha band (F(1, 16) 3.3, p.09, h2.17),
and in the beta band (F(1, 16) 5.50, p.08, h2.18) across
all brain areas in the TM group.
Coherence Patterns: Visual Results
As this is a pilot test of effects of TM practice on ADHD
brain patterns, we explored differences in coherence across
the three periods. Coherence-difference maps were created by
subtracting coherence calculated at pretest from coherence at
the 3-month posttest within each group. Also, in the delayed
start group, we subtracted coherence from the two post-
tests*after they had been meditating for 3 months. These
coherence-difference maps in theta (5.07.5 Hz), alpha (8.0
12 Hz), beta1 (1320 Hz), and gamma bands (20.550 Hz) are
displayed in Figure 2. A .2 cutoff was used to display
coherence differences. Coherence averaged around .6. Thus,
a difference of .1.2 in coherence between groups represents
a 30% difference in coherence.
Figure 2 presents the coherence-difference maps.As seen
here, there were few sensors with higher coherence in the
delayed-start group at the 3-month posttest compared to their
pretest values (top row); there were many frontal and parietal
areas with higher coherence in the TM group at 3-month
posttest compared to pretest values (middle row); and there
were many frontal and parietal areas with higher coherence in
the delayed-start group at the 6-month posttest compared to
the 3-month posttest values (bottom row).
Changes in Performance on the D-KEFS and the Tower
There were no significant group differences at baseline for
the four measures from the D-KEFS and six measures from
the Tower of London (all Wilk’s Lambda F(12, 5) B1.0).
The omnibus repeated-measures MANOVA with 10
variates*four measures from the D-KEFS and six from the
Tower of London*yielded significant measuregroup inter-
actions, Wilk’s Lambda F(10, 7) 3.7, p.041, h2.84.
Thus, individual repeated-measure MANOVAs were con-
ducted for each psychological measures.
Tower of London
The repeated measures MANOVA with the six Tower of
London measures as variates yielded significant pre/posttest
differences for all variables (Wilk’s Lambda F(1, 16) 17.7,
p.001, h2.52), but no significant grouppre/posttest
interactions (F(1, 16) B1.0). There appears to have been
significant learning effects in subjects in both groups on
D-KEFS Verbal Fluency
The repeated measures MANOVA with the four DKEF
measures as variates yielded significant measure prepost
interactions (Wilks’Lambda F(3, 14) 4.2, p.025, h2
.48). Therefore, separate ANCOVAs of difference scores
covarying for pretest values were conducted for each subscale.
There were significant increases from pretest to 3-month
posttest in Letter Fluency for the TM group (F(1, 15) 7.7, p
.017, h2.34), and no significant group differences on other
components of the Verbal Fluency test. Table 2 presents the
mean scores on the D-KEFS Verbal Fluency test for pretest, 3-
month, and 6-month posttest for the two groups.
Parent’s Self-Report Questionnaire
At the end of the research, the parents completed an 11-
point Likert scale questionnaire (5 Strong Negative Changes
to 5 Strong Positive Changes) to assess their perceptions of
changes in five ADHD-related symptoms in the their children
from the beginning to the end of the study. On this
instrument, there were positive and statistically significant
improvements in the five areas measured: (a) ability to focus
on schoolwork, (b) organizational abilities, (c) ability to work
independently, (d) happiness, and (e) quality of sleep. Table 3
Figure 1. Theta/beta power ratios during computer tasks in the TM group
decreased compared to the delayed-start group after 3 months of TM
practice and continued to decrease at the 6-month posttest in these
subjects. In the delayed-start group theta/beta power ratios increased
slightly from baseline to the 3-month posttest and then decreased sharply
after they learned TM (3- to 6-month posttest).
ADHD and TM Practice
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presents the means, standard error, t-test statistics, and
significance for these variables.
Repeated measure MANOVAs reported significant increases
in D-KEFS in the delayed-start group after they learned TM
compared to the time from baseline to the 3-month posttest
(F(1, 8) 7.8, p.024, h2.49). Theta/beta ratios also sig-
nificantly decreased from the 3-month to 6-month posttest
(4.3) in this group when compared to baseline to 3-month
posttest (1.3) (F(1, 8) 5.1, p.053, h2.39). There were no
within group differences in the delayed-start group on other
In this random assignment pilot test, 3-months practice
of the TM technique resulted in significant decreases in
theta/beta ratios, significant increases in theta coherence,
and trends for increases in alpha and beta coherence
during tasks. These brain measures were supported by
significant increases in Letter Fluency and significant
increases in positive behavior reported by the parents.
The single-group within analysis of the delayed-start
group yielded similar decreases in theta/beta ratios and
increases in Letter Fluency after the delayed-start group
Figure 2. Three coherence-difference maps are presented in this figure. In the top row is coherence during the 3-month posttest minus baseline coherence for
the delayed-start subjects who did not meditate over this time. In the middle row is coherence during the 3-month posttest minus baseline coherence for the
TM subjects. In the bottom row is coherence during the 6-month posttest minus 3-month posttest coherence for the delayed-start subject, who had been
meditating over this time. As seen in this figure, there are few recording pairs with higher coherence in the control group (3-month posttest minus pretest), and
many areas of increased coherence pairs after 3 months of TM practice in the TM and delayed-start groups.
Table 2. Mean Scores (Standard Error) for the Pretest, 3-Month, and 6-Month Posttests for the D-KEFS Verbal Fluency Scores
TM Group Delayed Start Group
Variable Pretest 3-Month Posttest 6-Month Posttest Pretest 3-Month Posttest 6-Month Posttest
Letter fluency 20.3 (3.5) 27.1 (3.5) 30.0 (4.1) 22.6 (1.9) 23.1 (2.7) 31.8 (2.9)
Category fluency 27.2 (3.0) 25.3 (3.7) 29.8 (2.3) 29.3 (3.2) 26.3 (2.3) 31.1 (2.7)
Category switching 8.8 (.9) 8.7 (.8) 9.0 (1.0) 10.6 (.6) 10.2 (.7) 11.5 (.5)
Total switching accuracy 6.8 (.8) 9.3 (.8) 10.7 (1.0) 7.3 (.7) 8.7 (1.1) 9.5 (.4)
Note: There were significant increases in Letter Fluency in the TM group from pretest to 3-month posttest, and in the delayed-start group from the 3-month
posttest to 6-month posttest. Significant differences are bolded for easy identification.
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Proposed Mechanism: Experience Related Cortical
The brain is a self-organizing system*repeated experience
enhances brain circuits involved in that experience.
TM practice, one experiences a mantra as a thought, and then
experiences that thought at more subtle levels*less clear,
less distinct. This results in a style of attending characterized
by low arousal with high attention. This is a new style of
directing attention called ‘‘restful alertness.’’
high arousal goes with high attention and low arousal goes
with low attention.
This state of restful alertness corre-
sponds to higher frontal and parietal cerebral metabolic
rate*part of the attentional system*and lower thalamic
and to higher activity in the default mode
Activity in the default mode network is higher
during self-directed tasks and lower when attention is
engaged with objects of attention.
Repeated experiences of restful alertness during TM
practice may change attentional processes during tasks.
Heightened attention could lead to higher beta EEG leading
to decreased theta/beta ratios. The percentage decrease in
theta/beta ratios over the 6 months of this study was 48%*
from 8.8 to 4.6 in the TM group and from 11.7 to 7.4 in the
delayed-start group after they learned TM. This percentage
decrease is more than that reported from use of methylphe-
nidate, less than 3%,
and more than that reported from
neurofeedback*an average of 33% in three studies.
Frontal executive circuits activate and sequence other brain
areas. Subjects with greater success in a visuomotor tasks
exhibit higher coherence across all frequency bands.
3-month TM practice, frontal, parietal, and anterior/posterior
theta, alpha, and beta1 coherence increased. These coherence
changes were observed during a demanding computer task.
Higher coherence could also explain previous findings of
improved ability to concentrate and better emotion control in
ADHD children with 3 months of TM practice.
Phenomenologically, higher alpha and beta coherence are
associated with a stable experience of inner self-awareness,
posited to underlie thinking.
With regular TM practice, this
experience of inner self-awareness could begin to form a
stable background for processing experiences.
children, this could provide a new foundation to organize
experiences resulting in better behavior regulation and
improved mental performance.
Ability of D-KEFS to Discriminate ADHD Groups
After the study was conducted, Wodka and colleagues
investigated D-KEFS’s ability to classifying ADHD (N 54)
and normal control subjects (N 69).
They reported that
DKEF discriminated groups at a trend level (p.09). Their
finding could reflect the fact that they used high functioning
subjects. Future research could explore the relation of D-KEFS
scores, brain scores, and behavioral measures in ADHD
This random assignment study of brain and psychological
measures supports the efficacy of TM practice as treatment
for ADHD, replicating an earlier study using a single-group
design. Future research is needed to replicate these findings
in a larger subject population, to use other measures of
executive functioning, and to compare effects of different
meditation practices on enhancing brain functioning and
promoting positive psychological and emotional well-being
in ADHD populations.
Acknowledgements: We thank the David Lynch Foundation and
anonymous donors for funding support. We also thank Rannie Boes,
Peter Graham Bell, and Phyllis Greer for help with data acquisition.
Disclosure: Grosswald is a teacher of the TM technique.
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-values for Likert Scale of Parent’s Observations
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