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Summary Although meditation has been practiced worldwide for centuries, there are no reports that it causes epilepsy or increases the predisposition to it. Medical care utilization statistics and clinical studies indicate that individuals who regularly practice the Transcendental Meditation technique have fewer problems of the nervous system and specifically show decreased symptoms of epilepsy. The frequency, amplitude, areas of activation, and effects of the EEG during the Transcendental Meditation technique are completely different from those of epilepsy. There is no evidence that the Transcendental Meditation technique increases glutamate, which has been associated with epilepsy. With regard to serotonin, the relationship of serotonin to epilepsy has to be viewed in the context of the abnormal brain tissue that causes epilepsy. The serotonin increases that may occur through meditation have been associated with only beneficial effects.

Many studies in humans suggest that altered temporal lobe functioning, especially functioning in the right temporal lobe, is involved in mystical and religious experiences. We investigated temporal lobe functioning in individuals who reported having transcendental "near-death experiences" during life-threatening events. These individuals were found to have more temporal lobe epileptiform electroencephalographic activity than control subjects and also reported significantly more temporal lobe epileptic symptoms. Contrary to predictions, epileptiform activity was nearly completely lateralized to the left hemisphere. The near-death experience was not associated with dysfunctional stress reactions such as dissociation, posttraumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse, but rather was associated with positive coping styles. Additional analyses revealed that near-death experiencers had altered sleep patterns, specifically, a shorter duration of sleep and delayed REM sleep relative to the control group. These results suggest that altered temporal lobe functioning may be involved in the near-death experience and that individuals who have had such experiences are physiologically distinct from the general population.
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Transcendental Meditation (TM®) is derived from ancient yogic teachings. Both short- and long-term physiological correlates of TM® practice have been studied. EEG effects include increased alpha, theta, and gamma frequencies and increased coherence and synchrony. Neuronal hypersynchrony is also a cardinal feature of epilepsy, and subjective psychic symptoms, apnea, and myoclonic jerking are characteristic of both epileptic seizures and meditative states. Clinical vignettes have highlighted the potential risk of human kindling from repetitive meditation in persons practicing TM®, but clinical studies of similar techniques suggest that meditation may also be a potential antiepileptic therapy. Future clinical studies of meditating subjects using video/EEG monitoring are warranted to determine whether behavioral phenomena have an underlying epileptic basis, and prospective clinical trials of TM® in subjects with well-delineated epilepsy syndromes are necessary to establish the safety of this technique and its potential efficacy for seizure reduction and improvement of quality of life.