People who meditate for many years seem to enjoy a variety of cognitive benefits, including greater neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to make physiological changes) and more white and dark brain matter, the New York Times reported May 8.
Research also has shown that meditation may help lower the risk of death from coronary artery disease — possibly by reducing stress hormones and inflammation — and that long-term meditators have more folding in their cerebral cortex, which could mean more neurons firing in their brains, resulting in greater cognitive capacity.
“We used to believe that when you were born, your brain would grow and reach a peak in the early 20s and then start shrinking,” says Eileen Luders of UCLA, author of the latter study. “It was thought there was nothing we could do to change that.” Experts now think that the mental challenges presented by meditation can help the aging brain. “People ask, ‘What do you do? Just sit there with your eyes closed?’ It’s actually hard work, because you have to make a constant mental effort,” explains Luders.
Luders’ study was published in February 2012 in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.