University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers first discovered that specific reactions in the brains of long-term meditators were larger and contained more gray matter than those of a non-meditating control group: that was in 2009. Now, a follow-up study by the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging suggest people that meditate regularly also display stronger neuronal connections between brain regions and less age-related atrophy (shrinkage) in all areas of the brain.
The study comprised 27 active meditation practitioners (average age 52) and 27 control subjects, matched by age and sex. The number of years of meditation ranged from 5-46 and included various styles.
Using a type of brain imaging known as diffusion tensor imaging, or DTI- a new imaging mode that provides insights into the structural connectivity of the brain-the researchers found that long-term meditators have white matter fibers that are either more numerous, more dense or more insulated, throughout the brain. Although such tissue tends to decline with age, the study suggest that it can be preserved through active meditation practices.
Researcher Eileen Luders remarks, “If practiced regularly and over years, meditation may slow down aging-related brain atrophy, perhaps by positively affecting the immune system. Meditation appears to be a powerful mental exercise with the potential to change the physical structure of the brain.” -natural awakenings 2/2012