Improve Your Brain as You Age

In Meditation by Janet

  • Are you concerned about cognitive impairment as you get older?
  • Would you spent 20-30 minutes a day to decrease your dementia risk?

You have a good reason to be concerned! In people over 65 age-related mild cognitive impairment occurs are a rate of 10-20% with a 2.5-fold risk of developing dementia.

For over 35 years medical researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have been studying Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) a form of meditation that has been used to respond more effectively to stress, pain and illness. MBSR is “primarily about the systematic training and refinement of attention and awareness, compassion and wisdom, is a manifestation of its universal applicability.1

In 2010-11 research on meditation and the brain structure was done using an 8-week MBRS program with both classes and home meditation. The 16 healthy participants spent an average of 27 minutes each day practicing mindfulness exercises. MR studies of the brain were done two weeks prior to the program and two weeks afterwards. A control group had no history of meditation. The researchers were fascinated the brain’ plasticity and that people can actually participate in a way to change their brain, well-being and quality of life.

  1. The analysis of MR images, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. 
  2. Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress. 
  3.  None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time. 2

Researchers at University of California, Los Angeles and other institutions tested to see if yoga and mild, meditative activity would alter people’s brains and improve their cognitive ability during a 12-week study. Individuals participants in memory enhancement training acted as the controls.

The yoga group demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in depression and visuospatial memory. We observed:

  1. Improved verbal memory performance…
  2. Improved verbal memory performance positively correlated with increased connectivity between the language processing network and the left inferior frontal gyrus.
  3. Improved visuospatial memory performance correlated inversely with connectivity between the superior parietal network and the medial parietal cortex.
  4. Conclusion: Yoga may be as effective as MET (memory enhancement training) in improving functional connectivity in relation to verbal memory performance.3

In an interview with the Washington Post, Sara Lazar, PhD, who started the research on meditation and the brain as her post-doctoral study stated.

It’s well-documented that our cortex shrinks as we get older – it’s harder to figure things out and remember things. But in this one region of the prefrontal cortex, 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of gray matter as 25-year-olds.4

PubMed.gov has 938 research articles with meditation and brain as key words. This vast research is done worldwide. Researchers in Chili are proposing that cognitive decline can be slowed through meditation and healthy lifestyle can enhance the quality of life for the elderly.5

Today!                                           Right now!                            Save your brain! 

Practice yoga, meditate and keep your brain healthy.

Yours in wellness,

Janet Rae Humphrey, C-IAYT

1.  https://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/mindfulness-based-programs/mbsr-courses/about-mbsr/history-of-mbsr/

2. https://www.massgeneral.org/about/pressrelease.aspx?id=1329

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4927889/pdf/jad-52-jad150653.pdf

4. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/05/26/harvard-neuroscientist-meditation-not-only-reduces-stress-it-literally-changes-your-brain/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.31e51da96986

5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=meditation+and+brain