As we age, brain degeneration becomes a natural and normal occurrence. What you might not know is that it starts its slow decline in your mid- to late-20s. But a recent study has indicated that although we cannot completely stop the degeneration of our brain’s functionality, we can preserve more of the brain’s gray matter by practicing the simple act of meditation.
UCLA researchers had previously done studies that showed how meditation can minimize age-related atrophy of the brain’s white matter, and subsequently studied its effects on gray matter. What they found via brain scans was that in comparing 50 people who had mediated for years and 50 who didn’t, they both lost gray matter with age, but the decline was much less in those who meditated.
“It seems essential that longer life expectancies do not come at the cost of a reduced quality of life,” said Dr. Eileen Luders, first author and assistant professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “While much research has focused on identifying factors that increase the risk of mental illness and neurodegenerative decline, relatively less attention has been turned to approaches aimed at enhancing cerebral health.”
The researchers cautioned that they cannot draw a direct, causal connection between meditation and preserving gray matter in the brain. Too many other factors may come into play, including lifestyle choices, personality traits, and genetic brain differences. But based on the findings, as well as the mental and spiritual benefits, a little daily meditation certainly wouldn’t hurt.