The physiology of meditation: a review. A wakeful hypometabolic integrated response

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. Fall 1992;16(3):415-24. doi: 10.1016/s0149-7634(05)80210-6.


While for centuries a wakeful and tranquil state or experience variously called "samadhi," "pure awareness," or "enlightenment" had been said to be a normal experience and the goal of meditation in Vedic, Buddhist, and Taoist traditions, there was little known about this behavior until recently, when the practice of "transcendental meditation" (TM) became available for study in Western scientific laboratories. Derived from the Vedic tradition, TM is unique because it requires no special circumstances or effort for practice. Based upon a wide spectrum of physiological data on TM, we hypothesize that meditation is an integrated response with peripheral circulatory and metabolic changes subserving increased central nervous activity. Consistent with the subjective description of meditation as a very relaxed but, at the same time, a very alert state, it is likely that such findings during meditation as increased cardiac output, probable increased cerebral blood flow, and findings reminiscent of the "extraordinary" character of classical reports: apparent cessation of CO2 generation by muscle, fivefold plasma AVP elevation, and EEG synchrony play critical roles in this putative response.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Relaxation Therapy*