Striking public demonstration of link between brain functioning and the Maharishi Effect (video)

In a first of its kind public demonstration, MIU professor Fred Travis, Director of the MIU Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition, demonstrated how a group of meditation experts can enhance the brain functioning of others — a major step forward in understanding how the Maharishi Effect works.

The event took place at a press conference on January 11 In Hyderabad, India, during the 10,000 for World Peace Assembly that brought together more than 10,000 people from 139 countries to demonstrate the power of this novel but scientifically well-documented approach to peace.

The assembly was held at the Kanha Shanti Bhavan complex, the world’s largest meditation hall and the headquarters of the Heartfulness Institute in the outskirts of Hyderabad.

Dr. Fred Travis speaking from the stage of the main pavilion at the Kanha Shanti Bhavan complex in India.

The demonstration began with a TM meditator seated on the stage in front of the 10,000 participants. Attached to her head was a cluster of electrodes connected to a computer monitoring her brainwave activity. Her brainwave activity in turn was displayed on two immense screens in the mammoth meditation hall.

As she looked out at the audience, Dr. Travis pointed to the lines of brainwaves seen on the displays — mostly fast beta (20 cycle/sec) brain waves.

Then he asked her to begin practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique. Almost immediately the pattern changed to clear rhythmical alpha brain waves (8-10 cycles/sec).

Then he asked her to open her eyes.

“What you were seeing was brain activity during a fourth major state of human consciousness, completely different from waking, dreaming, and sleeping,” Travis told the audience.

“In the ancient Yogic texts this is called samadhi. You see a quick onset of activity in the alpha frequency band, about 8-10 cycles per second, indicating a state of deeply restful alertness — the body is rested while the mind is fully alert. And you see how the brain waves from all the different parts of the brain have lined up, becoming much more coherent and orderly, and how they have increased in power. This is the signature of samadhi, and TM is the only meditation that produces this immediately from the first sitting. It’s from this brain coherence that all the many benefits of TM come.”

High brainwave coherence is correlated with high levels of intelligence, creativity, self-esteem, emotional stability, self-awareness, moral maturity, ideal social behavior, and learning ability, along with faster reaction time, reversal of aging, higher grade-point average, more ideal social behavior, and more frequent experiences of transcending.

Next, Dr. Travis asked her to close her eyes again and resume TM practice. This time the 19 lines of brainwaves were presented in a circle, indicating the level of coherence between different parts of the brain. Global coherence was indicated by all sensors being connected to all other sensors, as shown below:

These periods of global coherence would come and go during the subject’s TM practice. 

Then Dr. Travis silently gestured for the thousands of meditators in the audience to close their eyes and begin TM practice themselves.

Over the next two minutes, the periods of global coherence were more frequent and lasted for a longer time.

“Both the subject and the audience were contacting the same underlying, inner field of pure consciousness, enlivening it for each other and leading to deeper experiences,” Travis said.

Screen shot from the video, showing the subject on the right and the pattern of high brainwave coherence that occurred after the members of the audience also began meditating.

“This is how it works,” Dr. Travis said. “We do not live in isolation. We are embedded in the world around us and we affect our world with every action. Action from pure consciousness has the largest effect. A large group of TM experts meditating together in one place radiate a powerful influence of coherence into their environment. This might change how the brain functions in people throughout the surrounding society.”

Dr. Travis was demonstrating the research that Travis and Bernard Markus conducted during the assembly. Markus created the EEG headsets and worked with third-party software companies to perfect the circle coherence.

“In our research, we looked at brain-to-brain synchrony between pairs of people while the 10,000 group collectively practiced their program,” Travis said. “We are in the middle of data analysis now to quantify how we might affect the brain functioning of others.”

Video of the demonstration

Scientific studies on the Maharishi Effect

Evidence for the Maharishi Effect has been piling up for the past 50 years. Altogether 56 studies have been conducted to date, published in 28 leading peer-reviewed journals and scholarly publications.

Research studies had repeatedly shown, for example, that when one percent of a city’s population learns the TM technique, quality of life improves throughout the city, reflect in reduced rates of crime, automobile accidents, and suicides — all expressions of social stress and disorder. 

Further research had repeatedly documented that the same effect is produced when just the square root of one percent of a population comes together to practice the TM technique and the advanced TM-Sidhi program in one place. Beyond reduced crime, accidents, and suicides, results have included reduced rates of homicide, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, infant mortality, drug and alcohol and tobacco use, drug-related deaths (including opioid deaths), and child and adolescent deaths by injuries — a remarkably broad spectrum of positive social changes.

But how does it work?

To those unfamiliar with the research, the immediate question is, how is this influence created?

The Maharishi Effect is clearly a “field effect,” that is, involving action at a distance — in this case, people sitting quietly with their eyes closed influencing the behavior of people some distance away.

What field carries it? From the beginning, scientists postulated that the coherence-creating effect was carried by the all-pervading “unified field” understood in quantum physics to underlie all forms and phenomena in the universe, giving rise to everything we observe around us. 

The many research studies on the Maharishi Effect indicated that the unified field must be more than just an abstract, mathematical construct — it must be a field of consciousness. When people close their eyes and transcend during TM and TM-Sidhi program practice, according to the theory behind the Maharishi Effect, they experience this universal field of consciousness within themselves — and in experiencing it, they enliven it. 

Because the unified field is all-pervading, it becomes enlivened in everyone. And this, the theory posits, leads people spontaneously to behave in a more orderly, harmonious way, resulting in reduced crime and the other positive changes revealed in the research.

What are the detailed mechanics?

Dr. Ken Cavanaugh

But a question still remains: What, exactly, changes in the surrounding population, who are not meditating, that causes them to behave more positively?

MIU researchers Ken Cavanaugh, Ken Walton, and Nirmal Pugh attempted to find out what. They measured daily serotonin and cortisol levels in residents of Fairfield who did not practice the TM technique — clerical and factory workers, among others. They took samples for 77 consecutive days. 

Dr. Ken Walton

Serotonin is known as the “rest and repair” hormone, higher levels associated with satisfaction and well-being. Cortisol, in contract, often called the “stress hormone,” is a direct indicator of stress.

The test results showed an unusual pattern. There were certain periods during the 77 days when the serotonin levels increased significantly and cortisol dropped significantly in all the participants.

These periods corresponded precisely with the rising and falling size of the large coherence-creating group in MIU’s Golden Domes.

In other words, when the group size increased, subjects’ serotonin levels increased and their cortisol levels decreased — suggesting that the subjects’ sense of well-being went up and stress went down. When the group size decreased, subjects’ serotonin levels decreased and their cortisol levels increased — suggesting their well-being went down and stress went up.

Earlier studies had shown that serotonin increases and cortisol decreases with regular TM practice. Now these same outcomes were being observed in the surrounding population.

The brain factor

Dr. Travis’s demonstration builds on these findings, showing that in the presence of a large meditation group, a subject’s brain functioning becomes more coherent.

Studies have shown that high EEG coherence is correlated with lower anxiety, greater emotional stability, greater self-esteem, increased creativity, increased intelligence, increased moral maturity, more ideal social behavior, and more. 

In other words, not everyone in society needs to meditate to create a society-wide effect. Even a relatively small group of TM and TM-Sidhi program participants can create these effects in the people around them — starting with more integrated brain functioning.

“This is not just talk about peace,” Travis said at the press conference. “It’s not just diplomacy or some collective desire for peace. This is directly creating peace from the deepest level of life to reduce collective stress throughout a city, a state, a country, and even the entire world.”

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Thank you to Fred Travis and Mike Tompkins for their contributions to this story.

For more information about the Maharishi Effect, please see the website of the Global Union of Scientists for Peace –

Serotonin/cortisol study – K.G. Walton, K.L. Cavanaugh, and N.D. Pugh, “Effect of Group Practice of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Biochemical Indicators of Stress in Non-Meditators: A Prospective Time Series Study,” Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 17 (2005): 339-376.