Meditation May Help Fight Brain Aging
Researchers from UCLA have founded that meditation seems to help preserve the brain’s “gray matter” – i.e. tissue that contains neurons.
The scientists looked specifically at the association between age and gray matter, according to a news release from the university, comparing 50 people who had meditated for an average of 20 years and 50 people who hadn’t. The conclusion: although people in both groups showed a loss of gray matter as they aged, people who meditated showed less of a loss. The participants’ brains were scanned via high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging.
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
Dr. Florian Kurth, a co-author of the study and postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA Brain Mapping Center, said the researchers were surprised by the degree of the difference.
“We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating,” he said. “Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”
The finding takes on significance in light of the aging population, many of whom will have long lives but will suffer cognitive decline.
“In that light, it seems essential that longer life expectancies do not come at the cost of a reduced quality of life,” said Dr. Eileen Luders, first author and assistant professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “While much research has focused on identifying factors that increase the risk of mental illness and neurodegenerative decline, relatively less attention has been turned to approaches aimed at enhancing cerebral health.”
The researchers cautioned that meditation alone might not be responsible for the difference – other factors such as lifestyle choices might also play a part.
“Still, our results are promising,” Luders said. “Hopefully they will stimulate other studies exploring the potential of meditation to better preserve our aging brains and minds. Accumulating scientific evidence that meditation has brain-altering capabilities might ultimately allow for an effective translation from research to practice, not only in the framework of healthy aging but also pathological aging.”