Meditation for ADHD-PI?

Meditation for ADHD-PI
Can meditation help ADHD-PI?  Two studies published in August of this year found that people who practiced meditation had improved brain activity in portions of the brain thought to be faulty in ADHD. Both the meditation studies looked at functional MRI (fMRI) changes that were the result of meditation and both studies had control groups that had not meditated and were without the fMRI brain changes. These are some of the first studies to show tangible brain changes as a result of meditation.

Acem meditation may be especially useful for those of us with Inattentive ADHD (ADHD-PI). This type of meditation practice was developed in Scandinavia over seventy years ago and has been found to specifically help improve concentration, focus and attention. The new study backed up these improvements in attention with concrete evidence from functional MRI evaluations that showed changes in the participant's pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain thought to control attention.

According to, "Acem Meditation is easy to learn, and involves the repetition of a simple sound. The meditation method enables the mind to express its own needs under conditions of greater inner freedom. The point is not to control your thoughts, but rather the opposite - to let them go. In Acem Meditation, your mind sets its own agenda, which is particularly important." Ideally, Acem meditation is practiced for 45 minutes daily. I was not able to find studies that looked at this form of meditation in children. The Acem Meditation website below provides locations where you can find courses that teach how to do this form of meditation.

In the other study, by Michael Posner and Yi Yuan Tang, the participants practiced a type of meditation called Integrative Body and Mind Training (IMBT). Participants in this study were college age students who spent a total of 11 hours meditating over the course of several weeks and were examined with a functional MRI (fMRI). Dr. Yi Yuan Tang and Dr. Michael Posner found that the study group had significant changes to the anterior cingulate which started just after 6 hours of the IBMT. The anterior cingulate is thought to control emotions and behavioral inhibition and is thought to be especially amiss in people with the Combined type (ADHD-C) and Hyperactive/Impulsive subtype of ADHD (ADHD-HI)

Michael Posner has spent most of his career trying to understand the development of brain networks underlying attention. He has written a book called Educating the Human Brain that is well worth a read but he is far from the first person to study meditation and ADHD. What makes Posner and Tang’s study unique was the clear and indisputable finding on the fMRIs.

IBMT was developed in China in the early 1990s. According to Dr. Tang's website, this form of meditation method is different from transcendental meditation or other forms of relaxation methods in that it focuses on avoiding struggles in controlling your thoughts and instead focuses body relaxation, mental imagery and restful breathing. While participants are meditating a trained coach provides soothing music and mental imagery as well as instructions in adjusting your breathing and relaxing your body.

The coach in this form of meditation plays a critical role in assuring that the people meditating are not exhibiting signs of struggles to control thought but is rather in a state of relaxed alertness. I emailed Dr. Tang to inquire about finding a coach for this type of meditation and apparently there are no coaches in the United States at this point. Dr. Tang has plans to conduct training courses for coaches in the near future he assured me.

There is a system called the Proteus Light and Sound Mind Machine that uses the same principals as meditation to get your mind into an optimal brain wave state for attending.  Research has shown that people with Inattentive ADHD have trouble getting into the Beta wave brain state and have impairments that present themselves as abnormal levels of Theta brain activity.  The Mind Machine program is designed to help get you into certain brain wave states using light and sound waves.  This system supposedly has  been shown to train the brain in how to obtains the desirable Beta state which is necessary for optimal attention.

Dr. Tang is continuing to work to bring his meditation techniques into broader use here in the U.S.  I will be following further research studies by Dr. Posner and Dr. Tang on the benefits of the use of meditation for attention, focus and ADHD-PI.

Acem Meditation

Meditation-specific prefrontal cortical activation during acem meditation: an fMRI study.
Davanger S, Ellingsen O, Holen A, Hugdahl K.
Perception and Motor Skills. 2010 August

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  1. Very cool! I'm going to check out the Acem website and see if their info can help me (if I can remember, that is!).

  2. We apparently just missed a free (donation encouraged) training in Manhattan. I am going to keep my ears and eyes peeled for training in my area (Southeast, USA). Thanks for writing!

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