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SDBIF Newsletter, Summer 2001

The Potential Impact of Transcendental Meditation on
Recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury
Alarik T. Arenander, PhD, Director, Brain Research Institute

See Also:
AppliedNeuroscience.pdf (1018K)

How TM helped our family recovery from TBI

Neuro Images of TBI

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can present as interrelated problems of neurophysiological imbalance and incoherence. Even ‘mild’ TBI can have devastating effects on the injured individual as well as the family. Optimal treatment of brain injured individuals requires an integrated, holistic approach to the possible wide spectrum of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral dysfunction. In addition to the specific sensory-motor dysfunctions associated with various TBI, there are four major areas of cognitive function that can be effected in many TBI individuals. These include: 1) reduced goal-directed behavior, 2) lower motivation, 3) reduced self-awareness, and 4) reduced emotional activation [1, 2]. Recovery from TBI can also be associated with a variety of mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety, irritability, frustration, and mood lability. Effective treatment is needed to help restore balance to the mind and body. Unfortunately, standard cognitive therapy and other conventional modes of rehabilitation have little scientific support to indicate significant impact on TBI recovery [3]. These conclusions indicate the need for more effective treatment modalities that can be scientifically documented to provide positive benefit.

Outcomes of injured individuals rely on diagnostic and prognostic information obtained soon after injury in order to optimize treatment and rehabilitation. Trauma can impact specific cortical and subcortical areas and/or result in diffuse, nonspecific axonal injury. The pioneering work of Robert Thatcher and colleagues [4, 5] show that the best predictors of recovery outcome are based on electroencephalographic (EEG) variables, in particular, EEG coherence and phase. Measures of brain coherence play fundamental roles in brain integration and function and are directly and strongly correlated with the rate and extent of TBI recovery.

Early studies of Thatcher and colleagues over the last 15 years supported the subsequent growth of quantitative EEG (QEEG) in the evaluation and understanding of TBI [4]. These methods have, in turn, supported the therapeutic use of EEG biofeedback or neurobiofeedback to entrain specific brain rhythms during rehabilitation. Although neurobiofeedback appears to offer some benefits, its application to TBI recovery remains largely undocumented. In addition, there may be some ground for concern about the consequences of manipulating specific frequency bands in the brain activity of the TBI individual. Finally, even in the face of reported frequency-specific benefits from neurobiofeedback, a natural, holistic program is needed to enhance integration of all aspects of brain function for the TBI individual.

Another approach likely to facilitate recovery is the use of a proper meditative technique to enliven in a natural way the endogenous neural feedback and homeostatic mechanisms. Meditation techniques have gained increasing acceptance over the last 30 years as complementary or alternative modes of restoring physiological and psychological imbalance, as well as reducing acute and chronic disorders. Thus, a mental approach has been used to help to reverse the physiological, psychological, and behavioral incoherence that can result from brain injury.

Over 600 research studies show rapid and accumulative benefits from the practice of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique in nearly every area of mind-body function [6-8]. Meta-analysis studies, comparing over 500 studies on different forms of relaxation, stress control and meditation, show the TM program is, by far, the single most effective means of eliminating stress and re-balancing the functioning of mind and body [9]. The TM technique produced a greater benefit than any other meditation or relaxation technique in areas of anxiety, high blood pressure, substance abuse, self-actualization, etc. The technique is also simple and natural. The TM technique is easy to learn and to practice, and is very enjoyable. Successful practice of the TM technique does not require intellectual ability, motivation control, philosophical understanding, cultural or religious belief, or any change in lifestyle.

One of the unique characteristics of the TM technique is the rapid onset and maintenance of high levels of short- and long-range EEG coherence, in alpha, theta and gamma frequencies. Research further demonstrates the strong correlation between EEG coherence and the growth of intelligence, creativity, moral reasoning, concept learning, academic performance, and neurological efficiency [10-13]. These scientific correlations of TM and high levels of brain coherence parallel the above-mentioned predictive correlation of EEG coherence and brain injury outcome. In fact, published research show that the practice of the TM technique leads to marked improvement or elimination of many common complaints of TBI individuals, including headaches, fatigue, impaired memory, low concentration and attention, depression, anxiety, irritability, sleep disturbances, emotional lability, and reduced social awareness [14-16].

Based on extensive neurophysiological and psychological research, as well as numerous studies on substance abuse and violent behavior, the TM technique offers any individual the ability to dramatically, and in an integrated, holistic manner, increase brain coherence and function. The twice daily 20-minute practice of the TM technique produces a unique state of brain functioning that can help counteract stress and disorder arising from TBI. One can predict that the inclusion of the TM technique as a complementary therapeutic modality should, by naturally and effortlessly increasing brain coherence and integration, facilitate the rate and extent of recovery from TBI. Thus, the TM technique should be examined for its potential benefit in the rehabilitation of individuals with TBI as soon as possible following the accident.

Selected References:

  1. Finset, A. and S. Andersson, Coping strategies in patients with acquired brain injury: relationships between coping, apathy, depression and lesion location. Brain Injury, 2000. 14(10): p. 887-905.
  2. Andersson, S., P.M. Gundersen, and A. Finset, Emotional activation during therapeutic interaction in traumatic brain injury: effect of apathy, self-awareness and implications for rehabilitation. Brain Injury, 1999. 13(6): p. 393-404.
  3. Salazar, A.M., et al., The efficacy of traumatic brain injury cognitive rehabilitation: A prospective, controlled, randomized trial. 1998, Defense & Veterans Head Injury Program Report.
  4. Thatcher, R., EEG Operant Conditioning (Biofeedback) and Traumatic Brain Injury. Clinical Electroencephalogy, 2000. 31(1): p. 38-44.
  5. Thatcher, R., An EEG Severity Index of Traumatic Brain Injury. Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 2001. 13(1): p. 77-87.
  6. Roth, R., The Transcendental Meditation Program. 1994, New York: Primus Publishing, Inc.
  7. Orme-Johnson, D.W. and R.E. Herron, An innovative approach to reducing medical care utilization and expenditures. The American Journal of Managed Care, 1997. 3(1): p. 135-144.
  8. Herron, R.E. and S.L. Hillis, The impact of the transcendental meditation program on government payments to physicians in Quebec: an update. American Journal Health Promotion, 2000. 14(5): p. 284-91.
  9. Orme-Johnson, D. and K. Walton, All approaches to preventing or reversing effects of stress are not the same. American Journal of Health Promotion, 1998. 12(5): p. 297-299.
  10. Orme-Johnson, D.W. and C.T. Haynes, EEG phase coherence, pure consciousness, creativity and TM-Sidhi experiences. International Journal of Neuroscience, 1981. 13: p. 211-217.
  11. Dillbeck, M.C., D.W. Orme-Johnson, and R.K. Wallace, Frontal EEG coherence, H-reflex recovery, concept learning, and the TM-Sidhi program. International Journal of Neuroscience, 1981b. 15: p. 151-157.
  12. Dillbeck, M.C. and E.C. Bronson, Short-term longitudinal effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on EEG power and coherence. International Journal of Neuroscience, 1981a. 14: p. 147-151.
  13. Dillbeck, M.C. and S.A. Vesely, Participation in the Transcendental Meditation program and frontal EEG coherence during concept learning. International Journal of Neuroscience, 1985. 14: p. 147-151.
  14. Wallace, R.K., D.W. Orme-Johnson, and M.C. Dillbeck, eds. Scientific Research on the Transcendental Meditation Program: Collected Papers, Vol. 5. 1990, MIU Press: Fairfield, Iowa.
  15. Orme-Johnson, D.W. and J. Farrow, eds. Scientific Research on the Transcendental Meditation program: Collected Papers (Vol. 1). 1977, MERU Press: Rheinweiler, West Germany.
  16. Chalmers, R., et al., eds. Scientific Research on the Transcendental Meditation program: Collected Papers (Vol. 2-4). 1990, MVU Press: Vlodrop, The Netherlands.