What are the brain benefits of TM?

Clarity of mind makes a huge difference in how we handle situations, and in our enjoyment of life.

A major research study at American University (published in Cognitive Processing) found that the TM technique creates alpha brain waves. The Mayo Clinic describes alpha brain waves as being associated with a "relaxed, happy, focused" state of mind.

That's why people who learn the TM technique often say they're more focused, creative, and productive in activity than ever before. Many of them previously tried other forms of meditation. The chart below illustrates a key difference between TM and other techniques.

Form of meditation Transcendental Meditation Mindfulness
(monitoring of thoughts)
Concentration or Focus
Brain wave activity Alpha Theta Beta
Mayo Clinic description "Relaxed, happy, focused" "Dream-like" "Logical thinking,
problem-solving"
EEG image alpha brain waves theta brain waves beta brain waves
Mental effort Effortless Moderate effort Strong effort

What science has found

Many published research studies have documented TM's brain benefits, including:

Research studies on TM's effect on the brain

2000 to present

Alexander CN, Kurth SC, Travis F, Alexander VK. Effect of practice of the children’s Transcendental Meditation technique on cognitive stage development: acquisition and consolidation of conservation. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 2005 17(1):21-46

Arenander A, Travis FT. Brain patterns of Self-awareness. In B Beitman, J Nair (eds), Self-Awareness Deficits. New York: WW Norton, 2004

Dixon C, Dillbeck MC, Travis F, Msemaje H, Clayborne BM, Dillbeck SL, Alexander CN. Accelerating cognitive and self development: longitudinal studies with preschool and elementary school children. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 2005 17(1):65-91

Harung H, Travis F, Blank W, Heaton D. Higher development, brain integration, and excellence in leadership. Management Decision 2009 47(6):872-894

Heaton D, Harung HS. Awakening creative intelligence and peak performance: reviving an Asian tradition. Chapter in J Kidd et al. (eds), Human Intelligence Deployment in Asian Business. London: Macmillan, and New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001

Hebert JR, Lehmann D, Tan G, Travis FT, Arenander A. Enhanced EEG alpha time-domain phase synchrony during Transcendental Meditation: implications for cortical integration theory. Signal Processing 2005 85(11):2213-2232

Nidich SI, Schneider RH, Nidich RJ, Foster G, Sharma H, Salerno J, Goodman R, Alexander CN. Effect of the Transcendental Meditation program on intellectual development in community-dwelling older adults.  Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 2005 17(1):217-226

So KT, Orme-Johnson DW. Three randomized experiments on the holistic longitudinal effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on cognition. Intelligence 2001 29(5):419-440

Sridevi K, Krishna Rao PV. Temporal effects of meditation on cognitive style. Journal of Indian Psychology 2003 21:38-51

Travis F. Brain functioning as the ground for spiritual experiences and ethical behavior. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 2009 78(5):26-32

Travis FT. Autonomic and EEG patterns distinguish transcending from other experiences during Transcendental Meditation practice. International Journal of Psychophysiology 2001 42(1):1-9

Travis FT, Arenander A. Cross-sectional and longitudinal study of effects of Transcendental Meditation practice on interhemispheric frontal asymmetry and frontal coherence. International Journal of Neuroscience 2006 116(12):1519-38

Travis FT, Arenander A, DuBois D. Psychological and physiological characteristics of a proposed object-referral/self-referral continuum of self-awareness. Consciousness and Cognition 2004 13(2):401-420

Travis FT, Brown S. My brain made me do it: brain maturation and levels of self-development. In AH Pfaffenberger, PW Marko, T Greening (eds), The Postconventional Personality: Perspectives on Higher Development (pp. 23-38). New York: SUNY Press, 2011

Travis F, Grosswald S, Stixrud W. ADHD, brain functioning, and Transcendental Meditation practice. Mind & Brain, The Journal of Psychiatry 2011 2(1):73-81

Travis FT, Haaga DH, Hagelin JS, Tanner M, Arenander A, Nidich S, Gaylord-King C, Grosswald S, Rainforth M, Schneider RH. A self-referential default brain state: patterns of coherence, power, and eLORETA sources during eyes-closed rest and the Transcendental Meditation practice. Cognitive Processing 2010 11(1):21-30

Travis F, Haaga DA, Hagelin J, Tanner M, Nidich S, Gaylord-King C, Grosswald S, Rainforth M, Schneider RH. Effects of Transcendental Meditation practice on brain functioning and stress reactivity in college students. International Journal of Psychophysiology 2009 71(2):170-176

Travis FT, Tecce J, Arenander A, Wallace RK. Patterns of EEG coherence, power and contingent negative variation characterize the integration of transcendental and waking states. Biological Psychology 2002 61(3):293-319

Travis FT, Tecce JJ, Guttman J. Cortical plasticity, contingent negative variation, and transcendent experiences during practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. Biological Psychology 2000 55(1):41-55

Warner TQ. Awareness and cognition: the role of awareness training in child development. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 2005 17(1):47-64

Yamamoto S, Kitamura Y, Yamada N, Nakashima Y, Kuroda S. Medial prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex in the generation of alpha activity induced by Transcendental Meditation: a magnetoencephalographic study. Acta Medica Okayama 2006 60(1):51-58

Before 2000

Appelle S, Oswald LE. Simple reaction time as a function of alertness and prior mental activity. Perceptual and Motor Skills 1974 38(3):1263-1268

Aron A, Orme-Johnson D, Brubaker P. The Transcendental Meditation program in the college curriculum: a four-year longitudinal study of effects on cognitive and affective functioning. College Student Journal 1981 15(2):140-146

Banquet JP. Spectral analysis of the EEG in meditation. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology 1973 35(2):143-151

Banquet JP, Sailhan M. Analyse E.E.G. d’états de conscience induits et spontanés. Revue d’Electroencéphalographie et de Neurophysiologie Clinique 1974 4(3):445-453

Bennett JE, Trinder J. Hemispheric laterality and cognitive style associated with Transcendental Meditation. Psychophysiology 1977 14(3):293-296

Cranson RW, Orme-Johnson DW, Dillbeck MC, Jones CH, Alexander CN, Gackenbach J. Transcendental Meditation and improved performance on intelligence-related measures: a longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and Individual Differences 1991 12(10):1105-1116

Dillbeck MC. Meditation and flexibility of visual perception and verbal problem solving. Memory and Cognition 1982 10(3):207-215

Dillbeck MC, Araas-Vesely S. Participation in the Transcendental Meditation program and frontal EEG coherence during concept learning. International Journal of Neuroscience 1986 29(1/2):45-55

Dillbeck MC, Bronson EC. Short-term longitudinal effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on EEG power and coherence. International Journal of Neuroscience 1981 14(3/4):147-151

Dillbeck MC, Orme-Johnson DW, Wallace RK. Frontal EEG coherence, H-reflex recovery, concept learning, and the TM-Sidhi program. International Journal of Neuroscience 1981 15(3):151-157

Gallois P. Modifications neurophysiologiques et respiratoires lors de la pratique des techniques de relaxation. L'Encephale 1984 10:139-144

Gaylord C, Orme-Johnson D, Travis F. The effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique and progressive muscular relaxation on EEG coherence, stress reactivity, and mental health in black adults. International Journal of Neuroscience 1989 46(1/2):77-86

Hebert JR, Lehmann D. Theta bursts: an EEG pattern in normal subjects practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology 1977 42(3):397-405

Jevning R, Wallace RK, Beidebach M. The physiology of meditation: a review. A wakeful hypometabolic integrated response. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 1992 16(3):415-424

Levine PH. The coherence spectral array (COSPAR) and its application to the spatial ordering of the EEG. Proceedings of the San Diego Biomedical Symposium 1976 15:237-247

McEvoy TM, Frumkln LR, Harkins SW. Effects of meditation on brainstem auditory evoked potentials. International Journal of Neuroscience 1980 10(2/3):165-170

Orme-Johnson DW, Dillbeck MC, Wallace RK, Landrith III GS. Intersubject EEG coherence: is consciousness a field? International Journal of Neuroscience 1982 16(3/4):203-209

Subrahmanyam S, Porkodi K. Neurohumoral correlates of Transcendental Meditation. Journal of Biomedicine 1980 1:73-88

Travis FT. Creative thinking and the Transcendental Meditation technique. Journal of Creative Behavior 1979 13(3):169-180

Travis FT, Orme-Johnson DW. Field model of consciousness: EEG coherence changes as indicators of field effects. International Journal of Neuroscience 1989 49(3/4):203-211

Travis FT, Tecce JJ. Effects of distracting stimuli on CNV amplitude and reaction time. International Journal of Psychophysiology 1998 31(1):45-50

Travis FT, Wallace RK. Autonomic and EEG patterns during eyes-closed rest and Transcendental Meditation (TM) practice: a basis for a neural model of TM practice. Consciousness and Cognition 1999 8(3):302-18

Wallace RK, Orme-Johnson DW, Mills PJ, Dillbeck MC. Academic achievement and the paired Hoffman reflex in students practicing meditation. International Journal of Neuroscience 1984 24 (3/4):261-266

Wandhofer A, Kobal G, Plattig K-H. Shortening of latencies of human auditory evoked brain potentials during the Transcendental Meditation technique. Zeitschrift für Elektroenzephalographie und Elektromyographie EEG-EMG 1976 7(2):99-103

Williams P, West M. EEG responses to photic stimulation in persons experienced at meditation. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology 1975 39(5):519-522