Posted from archive: 11.21.2013 | by AMRA

human_aging_170

The human brain shrinks an average of five percent per decade after age forty. Luders [Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences] reviews the evidence for meditation’s neuropreservative and/or neuroplastic effects on normal age-related brain degeneration. She summarizes the results from three cross-sectional studies that compared age-related brain changes in meditators and non-meditators.

Of the studies reviewed: study 1 found that long-term vipassana meditators showed a lesser decrease in right frontal cortical thickness with age compared to non-meditators; study 2 found that zen meditators showed a lesser decrease in total gray matter volume with age compared to non, meditators; and study 3 found that a mixed group of vipassana, zen and shamatha meditators showed a lesser decrease in fractional anisotropy (a measure of axonal number, density, diameter, coherence and myelination) in 17 out of 20 brain fiber tracts compared to non-meditators.

Luders concludes that these studies provide encouraging preliminary evidence that meditation may slow, stall, or even reverse age-related brain decline, but stresses the need for future studies that (1) replicate findings using larger samples, (2) expand the spectrum of cerebral measures, (3) employ longitudinal designs, ideally with random assignment, (4) include neurocognitive measures, (5) examine the comparative efficacy of different types of meditation, and (6) explore how differences in the length, frequency, and regularity of meditation practice and the number of years one has been practicing influence these observed brain changes.

Reference:

Luders, E. (2013). Exploring age-related brain degeneration in meditation practitioners. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1307:82-88. [PMID: 23924195]

[Link to abstract]