Long-term meditation practitioners have younger brain


Meditation is an important part of my daily routine. Although I only have been doing meditation for 10 months, my body is stronger and I feel much happier.

I know many people have the same feeling. Meditation can improve our body and mental health. But now a study published on Neuroimage finds another benefit of meditation: it can make our brain younger.

The study recruited 50 meditation practitioners and 50 people who did not meditate. On average, these meditators had about 20 years of meditation experience.

Researchers scanned participants’ brain structure, and then used a “BrainAGE” program to estimate the individual brain ages. After that, they examined the relation among brain age, chronological age, and meditation experience.

The result showed that at age 50, meditators’ brains were estimated on average to be 7.5 years younger than non-meditators’. In addition, female brains were estimated on average to be 3.4 years younger than male brains.

Moreover, in the meditator group, for every one year increased in chronological age over 50 years, the estimated brain age was 1 month and 22 days younger.

There are some possible interpretations of the mediation-related antiaging effect.

First, during mediation there are intense mental processes, such as memory, self-reflection, attention, and positive mood. These processes may induce changes at the micro-anatomical level (e.g., dendritogenesis, synaptogenesis, myelinogenesis and neurogenesis).

Second, meditation may slow down brain tissue loss via inhibition of cell death and simulation of cell preservation.

If the mechanisms of tissue gain and tissue conservation work effectively together, meditation can lead to an increase or less decrease in brain tissue over time. Because normal aging is related to brain tissue loss, meditators will have younger brains.

Citation: Luders E, Cherbuin N, Gaser C. (2016). Estimating brain age using high-resolution pattern recognition: Younger brains in long-term meditation practitioners. Neuroimage, 134: 508-13. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.04.007.
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