Twice a day for the last six months, ten men practicing transcendentalmeditation with electrodes attached to their scalps have been giving surprising jolts to a University of California Irvine research team.
The experiments conducted in a laboratory at the UC Irvine Medical Center here, surprised the researchers by revealing that there is a rush of blood to the brain during the act of meditation.
As a result of the experiment the researchers are suggesting the blood rush may account for the increased mental prowess and clarity of mind commonly claimed by practioners of transcendental meditation.
The scientist recently published their findings, followed by a presentation at the American Physiological Society meeting in St. Louis, Mo. last October.
The men involved in the study experienced an average 65 percent increase in blood flow to the brain during meditation in contrast to blood flow change during simple eyes open relaxation.
Dr. Ronald Jenning, assistant professor of medicine and one of the principle researchers, said in an interview that the experiments so far have proved nothing conclusively.
Although it's speculative at this time." Jenning added, "the increase is the flow of blood to the brain seems to be the reason for the increased clarity of mind."
He likened it to runners "who report they feel better because the circulation in their system is much better."
Conversely, he said, "as people grow older, the brain's blood flow often slows down and may be responsible for people becoming less sharp.
The electrodes attached to the subjects scalps measured the flow of blood to the brain, he said.
Jenning explained that more oxygen travels to the brain when blood flow increases and that earlier studies have shown that increased oxygen to the brain can increase mental capabilities.
There have been numerous studies of transcendental meditation and its effect on psychological performance and social behavior. All of the studies have shown an increase in mental ability, he said.
Jenning said the UC Irvine research is the most advanced so far in attempting to discover the underlying physlological reasons for the effects of meditation.
The study involved 10 men, each of whom had been practicing transcendental meditation for at least five years. Each subject was given two series of tests a day, one during a meditation period and another during simple relaxation.
We were rather surprised with our findings since blood flow to the brain usually remains the same during any form of relaxation," said Jenning, who himself practices transcendental meditation.
Jenning and another researcher, Dr. Archie F. Wilson, an associate professor of medicine, have been studying various aspects of meditation for the past six years.