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Subject: Yogi Suprise
Date: 18 Oct 1995 00:30:29 +0100
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Better Living Through Brain Chemistry?
Rees, Brian M.
JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association
November 17, 1989; 262: 2681-2682
To the Editor. -- I read with great interest the article by Dr
Wagner (Ref. 1) proposing that "peace through mind/brain science
may be an idea whose time has come." An obvious stumbling block is
that the perpetrators of violence and belligerent behavior may not
be available to be treated medically and/or that the numbers of
those treated may not be sufficient to change societal trends.
Recent data point to a technology that addresses these issues. The
hypothesis is that the practice of transcendental meditation by a
small group of individuals can decrease social conflict in a much
larger population of persons who are not in any contact with the
meditators. One study (Ref. 2) reported the effects of such a group
in Jerusalem in 1983. An inverse correlation was shown between the
size of the meditating group and war deaths and war intensity in
neighboring Lebanon, as well as crimes and violence in Israel.
Analysis demonstrated that changes in group size preceded parameter
changes, supporting a causal interpretation (ie, dose-response
relationship). The number of war deaths dropped an average of more
than 70% on days when meditation attendance was high compared with
when it was low. A similar study (Ref. 3) showed an inverse
relationship between the size of a meditating group and the level
of violent crime, both in the Washington, DC, area.
More than 6000 American physicians have learned the transcendental
meditation technique, and it is common to find people taking up the
practice at the suggestion of their physicians. Yet, I am not aware
of any positron emission tomography studies in meditators (frontal
and occipital cerebral blood flow are known to increase 17% and
20%, respectively). (Ref. 4) Brain chemistry is undoubtedly
affected; when large numbers of transcendental meditators gather to
meditate, nonmeditators living in the surrounding town show
evidence of increased serotonin turnover. (Ref. 5) (Low levels of
serotonin have been associated with high levels of aggression.)
The Soviet Union has expressed interest in these findings, and in
March 1989 the Soviet Ministry of Health embarked on a joint
venture to teach transcendental meditation to 1 million Soviet
citizens. The fact that such an article could appear in JAMA is
illustrative of the change in the manner in which we regard the
capability of human consciousness to affect human affairs. Perhaps
the meetings of which Dr Wagner writes will serve as a catalyst for
mainstream biomedical research.
Edited by Drummond Rennie, MD, Deputy Editor (West) and Don
Riesenberg, MD, Senior Editor.
1. Wagner HN Jr. Peace through mind/brain science. JAMA.
2. Orme-Johnson DW, Alexander CN, Davies JL, Chandler HM, Larimore
WE. International peace project in the Middle East. J Conflict
3. Dillbeck MC, Banus C, Polanzi C, Landrith G. Test of a field
model of consciousness and social change: the TM and TM-Sidhi
program and decreased urban crime. J Mind Behav. 1988;9;457-486.
4. Jevning R, Wilson AF, Guich S. Modulation of regional cerebral
blood flow by acute states of decreased metabolism in man. Physiol
Behav. In Press.
5. Pugh N, Walton KG, Kavanaugh KL. Can time series analysis of
serotonin turnover test the theory that consciousness is a field?
Soc Neurosci Abstr. 1988;14:372.