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Front Aging Neurosci. 2014 Apr 22;6:76. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2014.00076. eCollection 2014.

Fluid intelligence and brain functional organization in aging yoga and meditation practitioners.

Author information

1
Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School Charlestown, Boston, MA, USA ; Bender Institute of Neuroimaging, Justus Liebig Universität Giessen Giessen, Germany ; Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University Maastricht, Netherlands.
2
Information and Communication Technologies, Electronics and Applied Mathematics Institute, Université Catholique de Louvain Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium.
3
BrainBot San Francisco, CA, USA.
4
Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School Charlestown, Boston, MA, USA ; Institut für Medizinische Psychologie, Charite Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany.
5
Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA, USA.
6
PGSP-Stanford Psy.D. Consortium Palo Alto, CA, USA.
7
Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School Charlestown, Boston, MA, USA ; VA Boston Healthcare System Boston, MA, USA.
8
Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School Charlestown, Boston, MA, USA.
9
Department of Psychology, Michigan State University East Lansing, MI, USA.

Abstract

Numerous studies have documented the normal age-related decline of neural structure, function, and cognitive performance. Preliminary evidence suggests that meditation may reduce decline in specific cognitive domains and in brain structure. Here we extended this research by investigating the relation between age and fluid intelligence and resting state brain functional network architecture using graph theory, in middle-aged yoga and meditation practitioners, and matched controls. Fluid intelligence declined slower in yoga practitioners and meditators combined than in controls. Resting state functional networks of yoga practitioners and meditators combined were more integrated and more resilient to damage than those of controls. Furthermore, mindfulness was positively correlated with fluid intelligence, resilience, and global network efficiency. These findings reveal the possibility to increase resilience and to slow the decline of fluid intelligence and brain functional architecture and suggest that mindfulness plays a mechanistic role in this preservation.

KEYWORDS:

aging; brain network integration; brain network resilience; brain network segregation; fluid intelligence; graph theory; mindfulness; yoga

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