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Front Psychol. 2015 Jan 21;5:1551. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01551. eCollection 2014.

Forever Young(er): potential age-defying effects of long-term meditation on gray matter atrophy.

Author information

1
Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA, USA.
2
Centre for Research on Ageing Health and Wellbeing, Australian National University Canberra, ACT, Australia.

Abstract

While overall life expectancy has been increasing, the human brain still begins deteriorating after the first two decades of life and continues degrading further with increasing age. Thus, techniques that diminish the negative impact of aging on the brain are desirable. Existing research, although scarce, suggests meditation to be an attractive candidate in the quest for an accessible and inexpensive, efficacious remedy. Here, we examined the link between age and cerebral gray matter re-analyzing a large sample (n = 100) of long-term meditators and control subjects aged between 24 and 77 years. When correlating global and local gray matter with age, we detected negative correlations within both controls and meditators, suggesting a decline over time. However, the slopes of the regression lines were steeper and the correlation coefficients were stronger in controls than in meditators. Moreover, the age-affected brain regions were much more extended in controls than in meditators, with significant group-by-age interactions in numerous clusters throughout the brain. Altogether, these findings seem to suggest less age-related gray matter atrophy in long-term meditation practitioners.

KEYWORDS:

MRI; VBM; aging; brain; gray matter; meditation; mindfulness

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