The biological dimensions of transcendent states: A randomized controlled trial

Author: Dawson Church1, Amy Yang2, Jeffrey Fannin3, Katharina Blickheuser1
Affiliation: <sup>1</sup> National Institute for Integrative Healthcare, Petaluma, CA, United States. <sup>2</sup> Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL, United States. <sup>3</sup> Thought Genius LLC, Peoria, AZ, United States.
Conference/Journal: Front Psychol
Date published: 2022 Sep 8
Other: Volume ID: 13 , Pages: 928123 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.928123. , Word Count: 230

This study evaluated the biological dimension of meditation and self-transcendent states. A convenience sample of 513 participants was drawn from attendees at a 4-day guided meditation workshop. Half were randomly assigned to an active placebo control intervention. All were assessed on a variety of measures, both psychological [anxiety, pain, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), positive emotions, and transcendent states], and physiological (physical functioning). Additional biological assessments including salivary immunoglobulin-A (SIgA), cortisol, and Quantitative Electroencephalography (qEEG) were obtained from subset of the Experimental group (N = 117). No significant difference in psychological symptoms or positive emotions was observed between Experimental and placebo groups at baseline. At post-test, significant improvements were noted in the Experimental group, including a 49.5% median increase in SIgA (p = 0.01), though cortisol remained unchanged. qEEG z-score analysis identified sustained stress reduction, including delta frequency band amplitude increases, high beta decreases, and faster acquisition of sustained alpha states (all p < 0.001). Psychological symptoms also improved on all measures. At 6-month follow-up (N = 140), PTSD and somatic symptoms significantly improved from baseline, and post-test versus 6-month follow-up results indicated significant increases in happiness and spiritual and physical oneness, along with decreases in depressive symptoms. These findings suggest that autonomic self-regulation and transcendent states may be measured in both biological and psychological dimensions and are associated with pervasive health benefits.

Keywords: anxiety; brain waves; cortisol; depression; group therapy; immunity; meditation; transcendent states.

PMID: 36160577 PMCID: PMC9498345 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.928123