Study Examines How Meditation Affects Gray Matter

March 6, 2015

Frontiers in Psychology recently published a study examining the correlation between meditation and the preservation of gray matter in the brain.

Eileen Luders, MD, assistant professor of neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, and Florian Kurth, MD, postdoctoral fellow, UCLA Brain Mapping Center, and fellow scientists examined the affect meditation has on gray matter.

The study included 50 participants who practiced meditation and 50 controlled matched who did not meditate. Study participants were 24 to 71 years of age, and length of meditation practice experience ranged from 4 to 46 years.

The researchers divided the participants into 2 groups: those who have meditated for at least 4 years and those who have not. Both groups showed a significant loss of gray matter, however those who meditated had better preserved gray matter.

The decline of gray matter in the brain has a number of contributing factors, which makes pinpointing causality extremely difficult. The same is true of gray matter preservation, which makes proving a direct association between preservation and meditation tenuous at best. Nevertheless, researchers were very encouraged by the results that were uncovered.

"We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating," Dr. Kurth stated. "Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain."

Dr. Luders believes these results are promising and may open doors to future studies exploring the potential of utilizing meditation to better preserve the aging brain.

-Alessia D’Anna

References

1. Luders E, Kurth F, Cherbuin N. Forever young(er): potential age-defying effects of long-term meditation on gray matter atrophy. Frontiers in Psychology. 2015;5:1551.

2. Forever young: Meditation might slow the age-related loss of gray matter in the brain [press release]. Washington, DC: EurekAlert!; Feb. 5. 2015