Meditation may slow age-related brain atrophy, new research suggests.
An imaging study conducted by investigators at the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that long-term meditators experienced less gray matter loss compared with matched control persons who did not meditate.
Particularly surprising was the magnitude of this effect in nine clusters throughout the brains of meditators, suggesting that the practice affects more areas of the brain than previously thought.
“We expected that there would be small regions in the brain where we would see an effect ― mostly in regions where there was a difference reported before,” lead investigator Florian Kurth, MD, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Brain Mapping Center, told Medscape Medical News. “What we found, however, were effects throughout the whole brain, which is something really different; it’s really huge.”
The researchers report that this is the largest related study of the effects of meditation on the brain, and it is also unique because it looked at long-term meditators.
The article was published online January 21 in Frontiers in Psychology.
The study included 50 meditators (28 men and 22 women) ranging in age from 24 to 77 years (mean age, early 50s) who had practiced meditation for from 4 to 46 years (mean, almost 20 years). It also included 50 matched control participants (28 men and 22 women) who did not meditate.
All participants underwent MRI of the brain at the same site using the same scanner and following the same scanning protocol.
The investigators examined the association between age and whole-brain gray matter and between age and local gray matter.