Objectives: The objective of this study was to study the effects of meditation on stress-induced changes in cognitive functions.
Methods: The study was conducted on 32 healthy adult male student volunteers who had never practiced meditation before the study. The study consisted of practicing 20 minutes of guided meditation and administration of psychologic stress to the subjects. The psychologic stress was administered to the subjects by asking them to play a (preselected) stressful computer game. The subjects were asked to meditate either before or after the administration of psychologic stress. For the control group measurements, the subjects were asked to wait quietly for an equivalent period of meditation time.
Outcome measures: The outcome measures were galvanic skin response (GSR), heart rate (HR), electromyography (EMG), sympathetic reactivity (QTc/QS2 ratio), cortisol, and acute psychologic stress scores. The central nervous system functions were assessed using Wechsler memory scale and visual-choice reaction time (VCRT). These parameters were measured both at the beginning and at the end of the intervention, using a pre-post experimental test design.
Results: Computer game stress was associated with a significant increase in physiologic (GSR, EMG, HR, QTc/QS2) and psychologic (acute stress questionnaire scores) markers of stress. Meditation was associated with relaxation (significant decrease in GSR, EMG, QTc/QS2, and acute stress questionnaire scores). Meditation, if practiced before the stressful event, reduced the adverse effects of stress. Memory quotient significantly increased, whereas cortisol level decreased after both stress and meditation. VCRT showed no significant change.
Conclusions: Practice of meditation produced a relaxation response even in the young adult subjects who had never practiced meditation before. The practice of meditation reduced the physiologic stress responses without taking away the beneficial effect of stress, namely, improved memory scores.