UCLA researchers have found that meditating for years strengthens the brain, which may improve practitioners’ ability to process information faster.
The new study, published by the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, found long-term meditators have larger amounts of what scientists call “gyrification” – a thickening of the cerebral cortex of the brain, which plays a key role in memory, attention, thought and consciousness.
Researchers - led by Eileen Luders, with the University of California-Los Angeles – also found a direct correlation between the amount of thickening and the number of years a person meditates.
For the study, researchers took MRI scans of 50 meditators, 28 men and 22 women, and compared them to 50 people who do not meditate. The meditators had practiced their craft on average for 20 years.
They found pronounced group differences -- heightened levels of gyrification in meditation practitioners – and a correlation between the number of meditation years and the amount of brain thickening.
"Rather than just comparing meditators and non-meditators, we wanted to see if there is a link between the amount of meditation practice and the extent of brain alteration," said Luders. "Meditators are known to be masters in introspection and awareness as well as emotional control and self-regulation, so the findings make sense that the longer someone has meditated, the higher the degree of [thickening]."