The Edmond Sun

Opinion

November 16, 2012

Feeling dumber? Meditate on it

EDMOND — There’s good news and bad news in the science world this week. On one hand, scientists tell us there’s evidence suggesting humans are becoming more stupid over time. That’s bad news. On the other hand, different scientists report that people with heart disease can lower their blood pressure, experience less stress and reduce death risk by practicing transcendental meditation. That’s good news for heart patients. There’s also good news for those without heart disease. A third group of scientists report that meditation techniques may have a beneficial effects on brain function that continues even after the meditation session ends.

Assuming all this news is correct, we may all be gradually getting stupider, but if we meditate, we don’t have to be upset about it. Let’s take a look at the evidence.

Item 1: Dr. Gerald Crabtree, a medical doctor and developmental scientist at Stanford University argues that mankind reached his intellectual peak 2,000 to 6,000 years ago and has been in gradual mental decline ever since. Dr. Crabtree’s conclusions appear in the recent edition of the journal Trends in Genetics. Evidently, Dr. Crabtree links humanity’s intellectual downhill slide to the historical point at which “we started living on farms.” (It’s really beside the point, and I hesitate to mention it, but Dr. Crabtree hails from Potrock Hollow, W.Va., which boasts a population of 13. This probably has nothing to do with his belief in the brain-numbing effects of farm life.)

Dr. Crabtree and some of his colleagues cite genetic studies suggesting mutations in our DNA tend to lower our intellectual abilities but these declines are masked by advances in technology and medicine. He predicts this trend will continue leading to further “dumbing down” of our species.

Item 2: Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, studied a group of 201 African-Americans diagnosed with heart disease. The subjects were divided into two groups. One spent at least 20 minutes a day at home practicing heart-healthy behaviors such as healthy meal preparation, exercise and nonspecific relaxation techniques. The other group engaged in two 20-minute transcendental meditation sessions. They were evaluated at six-month intervals. The study lasted more than five years. The meditation group suffered fewer “primary endpoint events” (I assume this means death). Their overall blood pressure was significantly reduced and they reported less stress and anger.

The study was headed by Robert Schneider, M.D., director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention in Fairfield, Iowa. The results are published in the American Heart Association journal, Circulation Quality and Outcomes. (It’s really beside the point and I hesitate to mention it, but Dr. Schneider is also the Dean of the Maharishi College of Perfect Health in Fairfield, Iowa. The fact that this college is named after Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who built a vast financial empire promoting the benefits of transcendental meditation, probably had no influence on Dr. Schneider’s study or its findings.)

Item 3: Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston University, coordinated studies conducted by a number of research centers to determine beneficial brain function changes in subjects following an eight-week meditation training program. Another group attended an eight-week education course. Thereafter, the subjects’ brains were studied by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Those completing the meditation program displayed decreased activities in the right amygdala — that portion of the brain known to be important in processing human emotions. According to Gaelle Desbordes, research fellow at the Athinola A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General, corresponding author of the report, “This is the first time that meditation training has been shown to affect emotional processing in the brain outside of a meditative state.” The study concludes that meditation may produce enduring beneficial emotional effects, such as improved emotional stability, reduced response to stress and decreased depression. (It’s really beside the point, and I hesitate to mention it, but everything about this study appears to be on the up and up).

Let’s summarize: Our grandparents were right, each generation seems to be getting stupider than the last. But if stress over the situation causes heart problems, and if you’re African-American, you can cope with this depressing situation by practicing transcendental meditation. But you don’t have to be African-American. You can reduce your stress levels about humanity’s declining intelligence by practicing any form of meditation.

In preparing this column, I delved into the ancient roots of the word “stupid.” It comes from the Latin “stupidus” which means “stunned or numbed by shock.” If that’s what it means, as a student of the news, call me “stupidus” every day. I gotta go meditate. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.

MIKE HINKLE is a retired Edmond attorney.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014

  • Holding government accountable for open meeting violations

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the recent success of three important government transparency proposals which will go into law this year.

    July 21, 2014

  • GUEST OPINION — Oklahoma GOP voters want educational choices

    A Braun Research survey released in January showed that Oklahoma voters — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike — favor parental choice in education.

    July 21, 2014

  • HEY HINK: IRS interferes with citizens’ rights of free speech

    The patient is gravely ill. We have detected traces of a deadly venom in the bloodstream. We don’t know how widespread the poison is, but we know, if not counteracted, toxins of this kind can rot the patient’s vital organs and could ultimately prove fatal.

    July 19, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • RedBlueAmerica: What should the U.S. do about illegal immigrant children?

    The crisis along the southern U.S. border has politicians and immigration officials scrambling. More than 52,000 children, mostly from Central American nations, have arrived so far this year. The Department of Homeland Security is running out of space to hold them all.
    President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $3.7 billion in borrowed money from taxpayers to cover the growing “care, feeding and transportation costs of unaccompanied children and family groups” when our own veterans are not taken care of. Texas Gov. Rick Perry criticized the president’s plan, saying more money should go toward securing the border.

    July 17, 2014

  • VA scandal highlights the need to change Pentagon spending priorities

    The ongoing Department of Veterans Affairs scandal raises an important question: When our veterans are being denied access to basic health care, why is the Pentagon squandering billions of dollars on programs that do not benefit our military forces? Is there a link in organization attitudes?

    July 16, 2014

  • For better politics, it’s time for some raging moderates

    Like more than 20 percent of my fellow Californians, I am now classified as a no-party-preference voter, registered to vote but with no affiliation to any of the state’s political parties.
    I am for lower taxes and for marriage equality. I am tough on crime and I am anti-abortion. I believe that a pathway to citizenship is a necessary part of immigration reform and that student test scores should be a critical component of teacher evaluations.

    July 15, 2014

  • Father on mission to stop gun violence

    Since his son died six weeks ago as collateral damage to a troubled young man’s wish for vengeance, Richard Martinez has been asked whom he holds responsible.
    “I’m responsible,” the California lawyer answers, referring to most Americans’ failure to push harder to change gun laws after earlier mass shootings. “All those kids died and none of us did anything.”

    July 14, 2014

Poll

If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
Undecided
     View Results