A very good reason to quiet your mind and watch your thoughts.
By Tom Jacobs
(Photo: Konstantin Stepanov/Flickr)
Recent research has found that regular meditation is associated with a slower rate of age-related brain degeneration. But even with such potentially exciting findings, terms like “limiting reductions in gray-matter volume” don’t really hit home. If we’re talking aging, we need a number.
Well, researchers have now come up with a striking one: seven and one-half years.
A research team led by neurologist Eileen Luders of the University of California-Los Angeles reports that, in a study of 100 people, the brains of 50-year-old meditators were estimated to be 7.5 years younger than those of non-meditators of the same age.
What’s more, they found that, “for every additional year over 50, meditators’ brains were estimated to be an additional one month and 22 days younger than their chronological age.”
Meditation is to your brain what aerobic exercise is to your body.
“These findings seem to suggest that meditation is beneficial for brain preservation, effectively protecting against age-related atrophy with a constantly slower rate of brain aging throughout life,” Luders and her colleagues write in the journal NeuroImage.
The researchers analyzed data on 100 people — 50 of whom were meditation practitioners, and 50 of whom were not. (They were matched for age; the mean age for both groups was 51.4 years.) “Meditators were recruited from various venues in the greater Los Angeles area,” they write, “and had close to 20 years of meditation experience on average.”
The researchers explain that they used “a recently developed and validated high-dimensional pattern recognition approach which allows estimating, automatically and objectively, the age of any given brain.”
“Age,” in this case, isn’t a measure of actual years, but rather a measure of what the brain is expected to look like at any given point in a person’s life. In a different study, this method found the brains of individuals with mild Alzheimer’s disease appeared to be 10 years older than the person’s biological age.
However, for the regular meditators analyzed here, the opposite proved true. At age 50, their brains were, in effect, seven years younger on average than those of their non-meditating counterparts. “These findings seem to imply decreased brain aging in meditation practitioners,” the researchers conclude.
Meditation, it increasingly appears, is to your brain what aerobic exercise is to your body: Do it regularly, and you’ll significantly slow down the aging process. “Young brain” could serve as a highly motivational mantra.