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Comparison of physiological correlates accompanying transcendental meditation and relaxation period Cox, David Neil

Abstract

Heart rate, respiration, skin conductance, muscle activity, cephalic vasomotor activity and electroencephalograph measurements were obtained from twenty-four subjects in order to test the hypothesis that the practice of Transcendental Meditation is associated with a hypometabolic state. Sixteen of the subjects were experienced practitioners of Transcendental Meditation and were randomly divided into two groups; one was asked to meditate during the test period and the other was not. The other eight subjects were non-meditating controls who sat for a relaxation period. Decreases in heart rate were evident in all three groups while no change was observed in respiration across the test period. During meditation meditators showed significantly greater decreases in skin conductance than did the meditators and non-meditators during relaxation. None of the groups showed any appreciable changes in cephalic vasomotor activity throughout the experiment. No particular changes in muscle activity were observed in most subjects; however, several meditators appeared to experience an 'active' meditation in which increased muscle activity was observed. The electroencephalogram distinguished the meditators from the non-meditators in that the former showed a predominance of alpha wave activity. It would appear that Transcendental Meditation is accompanied by a variety of physiological changes, although not to the extent implied by the term, hypometabolic state. The extent to which these changes occur, both during meditation and other processes, requires further investigation including the use of longitudinal research.

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