What distinguishes world-class athletes from athletes the next level down? Normally one would look for differences in experience, training, and motivation. Recent research studies in Norway looked at brain functioning. The research compared professional athletes who placed in the top ten in the Olympics, world games, or national games for three consecutive years with control athletes who competed at the top level but did not place in the top 50% in championships. The athletes were matched for gender, age, and sport. The finding: the world-class performers displayed higher levels of brain integration. The researchers then examined top-level managers – independently selected from private and public sectors, who had expanded their businesses multiple times or reversed the fortunes of failing businesses and who were also known for being ethically and socially responsible. The researchers also tested individuals who worked at middle and lower levels, matched for gender and type of organization. The result was the same.
The top-level managers scored higher in brain integration – they displayed “world-class“ brain functioning. The top athletes and managers also showed higher levels of moral reasoning (known to be correlated with brain functioning) and reported more frequent peak experiences (moments of intense happiness and peak performance). These athletes and business leaders did not practice the Transcendental Meditation technique. By some biological luck of the draw, their brain functioning was just more integrated than most other people’s. Long - term Transcendental Meditation participants showed far higher levels of brain integration. This does not mean that long-term TM practice turns people into world-class athletes or executives, only that people will bring greater brain resources to whatever they do. We know that whatever its level of coherence, brain functioning becomes increasingly integrated with regular experience of Trans- cendental Consciousness.