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‘Brilliant minds’—New Research on the Brain State of Virtuoso Musicians and How it Relates to TM

New research shows that professional classical musicians’ brains are highly developed in a way that makes them more alert, eager to learn, open-minded, calm, and playful. The same traits have previously been found among world-class athletes, top-level managers, and individuals who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique.

These traits are collectively referred to as “high mind brain development”, which appears to influence greater effectiveness in any domain. Those with high mind brain development were also found to have more peak experiences than average.

The new study was conducted by Harald Harung, Oslo University College in Norway, Yvonne Lagrosen, University West in Sweden, and Fred Travis, Maharishi University of Management in the US. It is published in the summer 2011 issue of the journal, Consciousness and Cognition.

In the study, professional musicians were compared to amateur musicians. The researchers identified three key characteristics in the electrical brain activity patterns of individuals with high mind brain development. Activity in the frontal lobes, which are used for higher brain functions, such as planning and logical thinking, was well coordinated. There was a predominance of alpha-frequency brain wave activity, which is associated with the brain putting details together and working coherently; and researchers found that individuals with high mind brain development used their brain resources economically, i.e., they were relaxed, but at the same time alert and ready for action.

Further research found that those with high mind brain development scored higher in moral reasoning, and reported an increased incidence of “being in the zone”. These peak experiences are described as an intense feeling of happiness and harmony and of transcending limitations; and can be experienced as a higher level of consciousness.

Author, Fred Travis, emphasizes that everything we do changes our brain. The Transcendental Meditation program and practicing music are activities people should devote themselves to if they wish to change their mind in the right direction . . . but how one thinks also plays a role.

The brain physiology of spiritual experiences strongly resembles that of high-performance sport and music making.

“If you are a very envious, angry, mean person, and that’s the way you think about people, that’s what’s going to be strengthened in your brain. But if you are very expanded and open and supportive of others, there will be different connections.”

Article reprinted from the website for Transcendental Meditation in the United Kingdom.