Cognitive Gains From Meditation May Endure Up to 7 Years

April 12, 2018

Improvements in attention gained through intensive meditation training were partially maintained 7 years later, even among older practitioners, according to a study published online in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement.

Woman meditating“The present study is the first to offer evidence that intensive and continued meditation practice is associated with enduring improvements in sustained attention and response inhibition,” researchers wrote, “with the potential to alter longitudinal trajectories of cognitive change across the lifespan.”

The study followed 40 people who participated in a 3-month meditation retreat in Colorado, where group meditation sessions were held twice daily and participants meditated individually for 6 hours a day. Immediately after the retreat, participants demonstrated gains in attention, psychological well-being, and their ability to cope with stress.

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Those attentional gains were partly evident at a 7-year follow-up, researchers reported in the new study. All 40 participants still reported practicing meditation, with those who were most diligent at maintaining meditation avoiding typical patterns of age-related decline in attention.

“In conclusion, the present study suggests that intensive and continued meditation is associated with enduring improvements in sustained attention, supporting the notion that the cognitive benefits of dedicated mental training may persist over the long-term when promoted by a regimen of continued practice,” researchers wrote.

“Although participants did not generally improve over years of daily meditation practice, continued meditation appears to benefit practitioners by preserving gains accrued during periods of intensive formal training and by altering trajectories of age-related cognitive decline.”

—Jolynn Tumolo


Zanesco AP, King BG, MacLean KA, Saron CD. Cognitive aging and long-term maintenance of attentional improvements following meditation training. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement. 2018 March 28;[Epub ahead of print].

Fell A. 7-year follow-up shows lasting cognitive gains from meditation. Davis, California: University of California, Davis; April 4, 2018.