Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The power of Om Mantra: Chanting of Om stimulates the central nervous system, giving relief from mental health issues including depression, anxiety and even epilepsy

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  Chanting of “om” stimulates the central nervous system, giving relief from mental health issues including depression, anxiety and even epilepsy. The “om” mantra has the potential to work on the vagus nerve, stimulating the brain through its auricular branches. Vagus nerve is one of the 12 pairs of cranial nerves and extends from brain to abdomen.
A team of researchers from the department of psychiatry, Advanced Centre for Yoga, attached to the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru, has found that the “om” mantra has the
neurohaemodynamic potential i.e. improving blood flow to the brain, and thus increasing the functioning of the brain and central nervous system.
Dr BN Gangadhar, one of the researchers, told this correspondent that vagus nerve stimulation is used in the treatment of depression and epilepsy. Since “om” chanting exhibits similar stimulation of vagus nerve, it can have a potential role in clinical practice. “We are now seeking confirmation of our findings from an independent sample,” he said adding that if the “finding is consistent; it has promise as an intervention option to a host of conditions that may include depression, anxiety and epilepsy”.
According to him “om” chanting caused hypoactivation of selected central nervous system regions. These regions are of importance as regards illnesses like schizophrenia, depression and mania.
The study has revealed that a sensation of vibration is experienced during audible “om” chanting. The team used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the neurohaemodynamic correlates of audible “om” chanting in right-handed healthy volunteers. They compared the “om” chanting condition with pronunciation of "ssss" as well as a rest state. Effective “om” chanting is associated with the experience of vibration sensation around the ears.
Those who participated in the study were trained in “om” chant without distress and interruption - the vowel (o) part of the “om” for five seconds continuing into the consonant (m) part of the “om” for the
next 10 seconds.
In this study, significant deactivation was observed bilaterally during “om” chanting in comparison to the resting brain state in various regions of the brain (like orbito-frontal, anterior cingulate, parahippocampal gyri-thalami and hippocampi).
In addition, another region of the brain (right amygdale) demonstrated significant deactivation. No significant activation was observed during “om” chanting. In contrast, neither activation nor deactivation occurred in these brain regions during the comparative task - namely the 'ssss' condition.

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