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Meditation May Stall Brain Aging

Update Date: Feb 06, 2015 05:40 PM EST

Meditation keeps the brain young, a new study suggests.

The brain ages quicker than the body, and it starts to deteriorate when people are in their mid-to-late-20s. As the brain ages, it begins to wither and lose its functional abilities.

Meditation was previously linked to less age-related atrophy in the brain's white matter and preservation of the brain's gray matter.

After comparing people who meditate to those who don't, researchers found that meditation seemed to significantly stall gray matter decline in the brain.

"We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating," first author Dr. Eileen Luders, an assistant professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA said, in a news release. "Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain."

Researchers said the latest findings could help prevent mental illness and neurodegenerative diseases, which is expected rise with life expectancy.

"In that light, it seems essential that longer life expectancies do not come at the cost of a reduced quality of life," Luders added. "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."

Researchers said the findings do not suggest a direct, causal connection between meditation and gray matter preservation, as there are many other factors that could affect brain health like lifestyle choices, personality traits, and genetic brain differences.

"Still, our results are promising," Luders said. "Hopefully they will stimulate other studies exploring the potential of meditation to better preserve our aging brains and minds. Accumulating scientific evidence that meditation has brain-altering capabilities might ultimately allow for an effective translation from research to practice, not only in the framework of healthy aging but also pathological aging."

The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

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