The reduction in our brain size occurs naturally as we age, however, a study performed by researchers at UCLA found that people who meditate, appear to have larger brains with more gray matter than compared with the individuals in the control group.
In a follow-up study, once again individuals who meditated showed less brain atrophy and stronger connections between different areas of the brain throughout the entire brain. Technicians at the UCLA Neuro Imaging Lab used a specialized brain imaging technique called Diffusion Tension Imaging or DTI to study the structural connectivity in the brain, including the brain stem, limbic structures, frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital lobes and the anterior corpus.
The study included a control group and meditative group of 27 participants in each – 11 men and 16 women – with an average age of 52 years who have meditated for between 5 and 46 years. The individuals practiced numerous methods of meditating including Shamatha, Vipassana and Zazen styles. Results showed pronounced structural connectivity in meditators throughout the entire brain’s pathways, as well as more numerous white fibers that are more dense and more insulated throughout the brain.
The impact of mindful meditation on the body and the mind can have a tremendous benefit on one’s mental, emotional, and physical health. Gray matter is where the brain’s neural cells live. It is the thinking part of the brain and is responsible for everything from muscle control to sensory perception to memory, speech, emotions, decision-making, and self-control.
It is possible that long term meditation may result in changes on a micro-anatomical level, as well as prevent the reduction in brain size as a result of aging. However, additional research needs to be conducted in this regard, as there are a number of unanswered questions, including whether a particular brain anatomy with enhanced fiber connectivity is a result of long term meditation or whether that particular brain type is drawn toward meditation.