The cumulative effects of Transcendental Meditation on cognitive function — a systematic review of randomised controlled trials

Summary

It is claimed that regular practice of Transcendental Meditation (TM) improves cognitive function and increases intelligence. This systematic review assesses the evidence from randomised controlled trials for cumulative effects of TM on cognitive function. Searches were made of electronic databases and the collected papers and official websites of the TM organisation. Only randomised controlled trials with objective outcome measures of the cumulative effects of TM on cognitive function were included. Trials that measured only acute effects of TM, or used only neurophysiological outcome measures were excluded. 107 articles reporting the effects of TM on cognitive function were identified and 10 met the inclusion criteria. Most were excluded because they used no controls or did not randomise subjects between interventions. Of the 10 trials included, 4 reported large positive effects of TM on cognitive function, four were completely negative, and 2 were largely negative in outcome. All 4 positive trials recruited subjects from among people favourably predisposed towards TM, and used passive control procedures. The other 6 trials recruited subjects with no specific interest in TM, and 5 of them used structured control procedures. The association observed between positive outcome, subject selection procedure and control procedure suggests that the large positive effects reported in 4 trials result from an expectation effect. The claim that TM has a specific and cumulative effect on cognitive function is not supported by the evidence from randomised controlled trials.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. 1.

    Canter PH (2003) The therapeutic effects of meditation. BMJ 326: 7398: 1049–1050

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

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

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Wallace R, Benson H (1972) The physiology of meditation. Sci Am 226: 84–90

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Ahmad S, Ahmad H, Sumboo SS (1988) Personality study of individuals regularly practising Transcendental Meditation technique. J Pers Clin Studies 4: 89–92

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Williams P, Francis A, Durham R (1976) Personality and meditation. Percept Mot Skills 43: 787–792

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Agarwal BL, Kharbanda A (1981) Effect of transcendental meditation on mild and moderate hypertension. J Assoc Physicians India 29: 591–596

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Nidich SI, Nidich RJ, Rainforth M (1986) School effectiveness: achievement gains at the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment. Education 107: 49–54

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Assimakis PD (1989) Change in the quality of life in Canada: Intervention studies of the effect of the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program. Diss Abst Int 50: 2203

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Cranson RW, Orme-Johnson DW, Gackenbach J, Dillbeck MC, Jones CH, Alexander CN (1991) Transcendental Meditation and improved performance on intelligence-related measures: a longitudinal study. Pers Ind Diff 12: 1105–1116

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Jedrczak A, Toomey M, Clements G (1986) The TM-Sidhi programme, age, and brief tests of perceptual-motor speed and non-verbal intelligence. J Clin Psychol 42: 161–164

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Travis F (1979) The Transcendental Meditation technique and creativity: a longitudinal study of Cornell University undergraduates. J Creative Behavior 13: 169–180

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Kotchabhakdi NJ, Pipatveravat S, Kotchabhakdi N, Tapanya P, Pornpathkul S (1982) Improvement of intelligence, learning ability and moral judgement through the practice of the TM technique. In: Chalmers R, Clements G, Schenkluhn H, Weinless W (eds) Scientific research on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programme. Collected papers. vol 3 (1990, pp 1998–2006). Maharishi International University MVU Press. Netherlands

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Kember P (1984) The TM technique and academic performance: a short report on a controlled longitudinal pilot study. In: Wallace RK, Orme-Johnson DW, Dillbeck MC (eds) Scientific research on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programme. Collected papers, vol 5 (1991, p 3079). Maharishi International University Press, Iowa

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Orme-Johnson DW, Farrow JT (1976) Scientific research on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programme. Collected papers, vol 1, Maharishi European Research University, MVU Press, Netherlands

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Chalmers R, Clements G, Schenkluhn H, Weinless M (1990) Scientific research on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programme. Collected papers, vol 2. Maharishi International University, MVU Press, Netherlands

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Chalmers R, Clements G, Schenkluhn H, Weinless M (1990) Scientific research on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programme. Collected papers, vol 3. Maharishi International University, MVU Press, Netherlands

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Chalmers R, Clements G, Schenkluhn H, Weinless M (1990) Scientific research on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programme. Collected papers, vol 4. Maharishi International University, MVU Press, Netherlands

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Wallace RK, Orme-Johnson DW, Dillbeck MC (1991) Scientific research on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programme. Collected papers. vol 5. Maharishi International University Press, Iowa

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Jadad AR, Moore RA, Carrol D, Jenkinson C, Reynolds DJM, Gavaghan DJ, McQuay HJ (1996) Assessing the quality of reports of randomized clinical trials: is blinding necessary? Control Clin Trials 17: 1–12

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    So KT (1995) Testing and developing holistic intelligence in Chinese culture with Maharishi’s Vedic Psychology: three experimental replications using transcendental meditation. Diss Abst Int 56: 2178

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Pelletier KR (1974) The effects of the TM program on perceptual style: increased field independence. Meeting of Western Psychological Association, San Francisco, California, 25th–28th April 1974. In: Orme-Johnson DW, Farrow JT (eds) Scientific research on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programme. collected papers, vol 1 (1976 pp 337–345). Maharishi European Research University, MVU Press, Netherlands

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Pelletier KR (1974) Influence of Transcendental Meditation upon autokinetic perception. Percept Mot Skills 39: 1031–1034

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Alexander CN, Newman RI, Langer EJ, Chandler HM, Davies JL (1989) Transcendental meditation, mindfulness, and longevity: an experimental study with the elderly. J Pers Soc Psych 57: 950–964

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Reddy, MK, Lakshmi AJ, Rao VR (1974) The effects of the TM program on athletic performance. In: Orme-Johnson DW, Farrow JT (eds) Scientific research on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programme. Collected papers, vol 1 (1976, pp 346–358). Maharishi European Research University, MVU Press, Netherlands

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Harding SD, (1981) The effects of TM on an auditory temporal discrimination task. In: Chalmers R, Clements G, Schenkluhn H, Weinless M (eds) Scientific research on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programme. Collected papers, vol 3 (1990, pp 949–53), Maharishi European Research University, MVU Press, Netherlands

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Pirot M (1973) The effects of the TM tecnique upon auditory discrimination. In: Orme-Johnson DW, Farrow JT (eds) Scientific research on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programme. Collected papers, vol 1 (1976, pp 331–334). Maharishi European Research University, MVU Press, Netherlands

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Schecter H (1975) The TM program in the classroom: a psychological evaluation. In: Orme-Johnson DW, Farrow JT (eds) Scientific research on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programme. Collected papers, vol 1 (1976, pp 403–409). Maharishi European Research University, MVU Press, Netherlands

    Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Hawkins MA (1998) The effects of Maharishi’s consciousness-based approach to rehabilitation with inmates on Curacao. Diss Abst Int 59: 3093

    Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Silver J (1977) The effects of transcendental meditation and masker uncertainty on the detection of a masked psychoacoustic signal: a selective attention theoretical approach. Diss Abst Int 37: 4167

    Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Jackson Y (1977) Learning disorders and the Transcendental Meditation program: retrospects and prospects (A preliminary study with economically deprived adolescents). Diss Abst Int 38: 3351–3352

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Miskiman DE (1973) The effect of the TM program on the organization of thinking and recall (secondary organization). In: Orme-Johnson DW, Farrow JT (eds) Scientific research on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programme. Collected papers. vol 1 (1976, pp 385–392). Maharishi European Research University, MVU Press, Netherlands

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Orme-Johnson DW, Raimondi D, Veseley B, Dillbeck MC, Wallace RK (1981) The influence of the TM and TM-Sidhi program on field independence: the growth of a stable internal frame of reference. In: Chalmers R, Clements G, Schenkluhn H, Weinless M (eds) Scientific research on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programme. Collected papers, vol 3 (1990, pp 1942–1948). Maharishi International University, MVU Press, Netherlands

    Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Sereda L (1978) Some effects of relaxative and meditative states on learning, memory and other cognitive processes. Diss Abst Int 38: 4697–4698

    Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Yuille JC, Sereda L (1980) Positive effects of meditation: A limited generalization? J App Psych 65: 333–340

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Hall EG, Hardy CJ (1991) Ready, aim, fire ... relaxation strategies for enhancing pistol marksmanship. Percept Mot Skills 72: 775–786

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Mengel GE (1979) The effects of Transcendental Meditation on the reading achievement of learning disabled youngsters. Diss Abst Int 39: 6699

    Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Festinger L (1957) A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California

    Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Reed JI (1976) the impact of Transcendental Meditation on cognitive flexibility, field dependence, and directional priorities in attention deployment. Diss Abst Int 37: 475–476

    Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Zuroff DC, Schwarz JC (1980) Transcendental meditation versus muscle relaxation: a two-year follow-up of a controlled experiment. Am J Psychol 137: 1229–1231

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Warrenburg S, Pagano R (1982) Meditation and hemispheric specialization: I. Absorbed attention in long-term adherence. Imag Cog Pers 2: 211–229

    Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Smith JC (1978) Personality correlates of continuation and outcome in meditation and erect sitting control treatments. J Consult Clin Psychol 46: 2: 272–279

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Otis LS (1974) The facts on transcendental meditation: III. If well-integrated but anxious, try TM. Psychology Today 7: 11: 45–46

    Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Lazarus AA (1976) Psychiatric problems precipitated by transcendental meditation. Psychol Rep 39: 601–602

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Peter H. Canter.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Canter, P.H., Ernst, E. The cumulative effects of Transcendental Meditation on cognitive function — a systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Wien Klin Wochenschr 115, 758–766 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03040500

Download citation

Key words

  • Transcendental Meditation
  • cognitive function
  • randomised controlled trials