Effect of meditation on psychological distress and brain functioning: A randomized controlled study

Brain Cogn. 2018 Aug;125:100-105. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2018.03.011. Epub 2018 Jun 21.


Background: Psychological stability and brain integration are important factors related to physical and mental health and organization effectiveness. This study tested whether a mind-body technique, the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program could increase EEG brain integration and positive affect, and decrease psychological distress in government employees.

Method: Ninety-six central office administrators and staff at the San Francisco Unified School District were randomly assigned to either immediate start of the TM program or to a wait-list control group. At baseline and four-month posttest, participants completed an online version of the Profile of Mood States questionnaire (POMS). In addition, a subset of this population (N = 79) had their EEG recorded at baseline and at four-month posttest to calculate Brain Integration Scale (BIS) scores.

Results: At posttest, TM participants significantly decreased on the POMS Total Mood Disturbance and anxiety, anger, depression, fatigue, and confusion subscales, and significantly increased in the POMS vigor subscale. TM participants in the EEG-subgroup also significantly increased in BIS scores. Compliance with meditation practice was high (93%).

Conclusion: Findings indicate the feasibility and effectiveness of implementing the TM program to improve brain integration and positive affect and reduce psychological distress in government administrators and staff.

Keywords: Brain integration; EEG; Meditation; Mood disturbance; Psychological distress; Transcendental meditation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depression / therapy
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Waiting Lists