OM, OM on the brain

Two Indian scientists wielded sophisticated mathematics to dissect and analyse the traditional meditation chanting sound “OM”. The OM team published a series of monographs in academic journals. These plumb certain acoustic subtleties of Om, which these researchers say is “the divine sound”. For a little about that, see our small report, in 2010, on the repetitive physics of OM

Now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now a different team of Indian scientists has taken images of brain activity of persons while those persons chant “OM” and while they chant something other than “OM”. The new study is:

Neuro-cognitive aspects of ‘OM’ sound/syllable perception: A functional neuroimaging study,” Uttam Kumar, Anupam Guleria and Chunni Lal Khetrapal [pictured here], Cognition and Emotion, epub May 21, 2014. (Thanks to investigator Neil Martin for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at the Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences Campus, Lucknow, India, explain:

khetrapalThe sound “OM” is believed to bring mental peace and calm. The cortical activation associated with listening to sound “OM” in contrast to similar non-meaningful sound (TOM) and listening to a meaningful Hindi word (AAM) has been investigated using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The behaviour interleaved gradient technique was employed in order to avoid interference of scanner noise. The results reveal that listening to “OM” sound in contrast to the meaningful Hindi word condition activates areas of bilateral cerebellum, left middle frontal gyrus (dorsolateral middle frontal/BA 9), right precuneus (BA 5) and right supramarginal gyrus (SMG). Listening to “OM” sound in contrast to “non-meaningful” sound condition leads to cortical activation in bilateral middle frontal (BA9), right middle temporal (BA37), right angular gyrus (BA 40), right SMG and right superior middle frontal gyrus (BA 8). The conjunction analysis reveals that the common neural regions activated in listening to “OM” sound during both conditions are middle frontal (left dorsolateral middle frontal cortex) and right SMG.

Here’s further detail from the study:


Here’s video of persons chanting “OM”:

BONUS (unrelated): A performance of the song “Home on the Range”: