As we start a new school year in the Coachella Valley, many parents are seeking ways to help their children cope with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

According to a National Survey of Children’s Health conducted in 2011-2012 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 11% of school-aged children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD – that is more than 1 in 10.

ADHD is a neurobehavioral disorder commonly diagnosed in childhood and often persisting into adulthood. People with ADHD have trouble focusing, controlling impulsive behaviors, and may be overly active. A study conducted in an independent school for children with language-based learning disabilities in Washington, DC, offers hope for children with ADHD. 

A random-assignment controlled study published in Mind & Brain, The Journal of Psychiatry (Vol 2, No 1) found improved brain functioning and decreased symptoms of ADHD in students practicing the Transcendental Meditation® (TM®) technique. 

Neuroscientist Fred Travis, Ph.D., and other researchers performed electroencephalogram (EEG) tests to measure and record the electrical activity of students’ brains as they performed a demanding computer-based visual-motor task. Successful performance of the task required attention, focus, memory, and impulse control.

The study showed improved brain functioning, increased brain processing, and improved language-based skills among ADHD students practicing the meditation technique. 

“Prior research shows ADHD children have slower brain development and a reduced ability to cope with stress,” said co-researcher William Stixrud, Ph.D., a prominent Silver Spring, Maryland, clinical neuropsychologist. “Virtually everyone finds it difficult to pay attention, organize themselves and get things done when they’re under stress,” he said. “Stress interferes with the ability to learn—it shuts down the brain. Functions such as attention, memory, organization, and integration are compromised.”

“We chose the TM technique for this study because studies show that it increases brain function and reduces stress. We wanted to know if it would have a similar effect in the case of ADHD, and if it did, would that also improve the symptoms of ADHD,” said principal investigator Sarina J. Grosswald, Ed.D., a George Washington University-trained cognitive learning specialist.

Previous research has found that during TM there is a unique experience of “restful alertness” in mind and body, an experience associated with higher metabolic activity in the frontal and parietal parts of the brain, indicating alertness, along with decreased metabolic activity in the thalamus, which is involved in regulating arousal and hyperactivity. This restfully alert brain state becomes more present outside of meditation as a result of daily TM practice, allowing ADHD students to attend to tasks.

The Transcendental Meditation technique is an effortless, easy-to-learn practice, unique among categories of meditation. “TM does not require concentration, controlling the mind or disciplined focus—challenges for anyone with ADHD,” said Dr. Grosswald. “What’s significant about these new findings,” Grosswald said, “is that among children who have difficulty with focus and attention, we see the same results. The fact that these children are able to do TM, and do it easily, shows us that this technique may be particularly well-suited for children with ADHD.”

Dennis Rowe is the director of the Palm Springs center for Transcendental Meditation® and can be reached at (760) 537.1006.

Sources: 1) ADHD, Brain Functioning, and Transcendental Meditation Practice. Mind & Brain, The Journal of Psychiatry (Vol 2, No 1); PsychCentral, July 27, 2011 

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