Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Does Meditation Help Slow Down Our Brain's Aging Process?

Human beings are living longer, but as we age, our brains deteriorate.  Scientists have been trying to understand this process and determine what can be done to reduce mental illness and neurodegenerative diseases due to aging.  Scientists think that meditation may play an important role in brain health.

In a recent study comparing 50 long term meditators and 50 non-meditators, Dr. Luders and her colleagues found that the grey matter, ---the brain tissue that contains neurons---shrank at a slower rate for the meditators than for the non-meditators.  Meditators practiced a variety of types of meditation from weekly to daily and from 10 to 240 minutes at a time in duration.

The chart below shows the results, with the steeper green line depicting non-meditators’ brains and the flatter yellow line depicting the meditators’ brains.

The results of this study are significant, especially given the body of work highlighting changes in the brain due to meditation (see blog post from last year--This Is Your Brain On Meditation).  However, the results of this study are not conclusive.   The researchers were unable to completely factor out variables that may have contributed to the aging rates such as lifestyle and genetics.  More research clearly needs to be conducted to find a clear causal link.