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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Soul Science God Philosophy > Science and Spiritual Quest > Section 4 Towards a New Biology > BIOFEEDBACK AND MEDITATION > 3.1 Scientific Basis of Meditation

3.1 Scientific Basis of Meditation


Over the last 30 years scientists have been using sophisticated technology to study the affect of meditation upon the brain. Electronic instruments are used to measure objectively and display various physiological effects such as blood pressure, pulse rate, respiratory rate, muscle activity and even brainwave rhythms. This gives the meditators feedback or information as to the effectiveness of their relaxation techniques. Skepticism about meditation was removed when an article [2] entitled "Physiological effects of transcendental meditation" appeared in the prestigious United States journal Science in 1970. Dr Robert Wallace, from the department of physiology at the Center for Health Sciences in Los Angeles, California, a recent convert to the practice of transcendental meditation, reported his studies of 15 normal university students who had practiced meditation for between six months and three years. This report was consolidated when two years later he and Dr Herbert Benson of the Boston City Hospital described an extended study of 36 subjects. A raft of physiological parameters was measured before, during and after meditation, the subjects being at rest for the whole period [3].


a) Breathing


Oxygen consumption began to fall within five minutes of beginning meditation reaching a maximal fall of about 20%, remained low during meditation, then returned to normal after finishing meditation (Figure 6). The elimination of carbon dioxide from the lungs fell in the same proportion as the fall in oxygen consumption, so that the ratio between the two remained unchanged; this indicates a reduction in the metabolic rate, that is, the speed with which chemicalprocesses occur in the body. These changes were associated with a fall in the amount of air blown in and out of the lungs as measured by the number of litres of air exchanged per minute (technically called the minute volume); it fell from 7.56 litres per minute just before meditation to a low of 5.25 litres per minute during meditation.


b)Cardiovascular effects


The heart rate fell by an average of 5 beats per minute during meditation (the ordinary rate is around 70 beats per minute). The blood pressure fell to a low level during the quiet premeditation period and remained at that level during meditation. The level of lactic acid in the blood fell during meditation (Figure 7) at a rate three times faster than it occurs during ordinary rest, thus indicating that metabolism in the absence of oxygen was reduced.


c)Skin resistance


Some investigators believe that the resistance of skin to the flow of electricity through it reflects anxiety levels. A low level represents increased anxiety and vice versa, possibly because the skin is more moist when one is anxious. Resistance can be measured by applying electrodes to the skin and connecting them to an electrical meter. Skin resistance increased markedly at the onset of meditation, and then returned to normal after meditation (Figure 8).


d) Cancer Remission by Meditation


...meditation   resulted in less       anxiety,depression,   discomfort and pain...


Dr Ainslie Meares, a psychiatrist in Melbourne, Australia was intrigued by the possibility that meditation may modify cancer, perhaps by influencing the immune or endocrine systems. He described a patient, a 49 year old woman with advanced breast cancer, who improved significantly after intensive meditation and, in a preliminary communication [4] to the Medical Journal of Australia, solicited more such patients in order to study this question further. In the following year, he reported [5] that after 18 months since he had first seen this patient, she felt well and had gained 11 kg in weight; he attributed this to "atavistic regression", i.e. entering a primitive state. However, two months later he indicated [6] that the patient had died. Over the next several years, he reported cases of bone cancer [7], Hodgkin's disease [8], cancer of the rectum [9] and breast cancer [10], all of whom responded to Meditation. He then reviewed 73 patients with various forms of cancer and claimed that meditation resulted in less anxiety, depression,   discomfort   and   pain,   better   tolerance   of   chemotherapy   and radiotherapy, improved quality of life, possibly slower spreading of cancer, increased chance of recurrence and of regression. He believed that psychiatric factors may interact with chemical, viral and radiational causes of cancer [11].