Transcendental meditation reduces ADHD symptoms in teenagers

A three-month pilot study was conducted in a private school for children with pre-existing diagnoses of ADHD and language-based learning disabilities. Participation was restricted to 10 students, aged 11–14 about half of whom were on medication. The students meditated at school in a group for 10 minutes, morning and afternoon.

To determine the effect of the technique parents, teachers and students completed standard ADHD assessment inventories measuring stress and anxiety, behaviour, social competence and executive function at the beginning and end of the study. Students were also given a battery of performance tests to measure cognitive functioning. The results were quite remarkable. After three months there was amore than 50% reduction in stress and anxiety and improvements in ADHD symptoms.

‘The effect was much greater than we expected,’ said Sarina Grosswald, a George Washington University-trained cognitive learning specialist and lead researcher on the study. ‘The children also showed improvements in attention, working memory, organisation, and behaviour regulation. Teachers reported that they were able to teach more, and students were able to learn more because they were less stressed and anxious.’

Medication for ADHD is very effective for some children, but it is marginally or not at alleffective for others. Even for those children who show improved symptoms with the medication, the improvement is often insufficient or accompanied by troubling side effects. ‘What's significant about these new findings,’ said Dr Grosswald, ‘is that TM doesn't require concentration, controlling the mind or disciplined focus, so is particularly well suited for children with ADHD.’

A second, recently completed TM-ADHD study with a control group measured brain function using electro-encephalography (EEG). Preliminary data shows that three months practice of the technique resulted in significant positive changes in brain functioning during visual-motor skills. Changes were specifically seen in the circuitry of the brain associated with attention and distractibility. After six months TM practice, measurements of distractibility moved into the normal range.

A third TM-ADHD study, to be funded by a $2 million grant from the David Lynch Foundation (, will more fully investigate the effects of the technique on ADHD and other learning disorders.

The study was published in Current Issues in Education Volume 10, 2008 Number 2

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First published in February 2009

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