Another positive thing we can do for our brains - meditation.From Science Daily:
Since 1970, life expectancy around the world has risen dramatically, with people living more than 10 years longer. That's the good news.The bad news is that starting when people are in their mid-to-late-20s, the brain begins to wither -- its volume and weight begin to decrease. As this occurs, the brain can begin to lose some of its functional abilities.
Building on their earlier work that suggested people who meditate have less age-related atrophy in the brain's white matter, a new study by UCLA researchers found that meditation appeared to help preserve the brain's gray matter, the tissue that contains neurons.
The scientists looked specifically at the association between age and gray matter. They compared 50 people who had mediated for years and 50 who didn't. People in both groups showed a loss of gray matter as they aged. But the researchers found among those who meditated, the volume of gray matter did not decline as much as it did among those who didn't.
Dr. Florian Kurth, a co-author of the study and postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA Brain Mapping Center, said the researchers were surprised by the magnitude of the difference."We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating," he said. "Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain."
As baby boomers have aged and the elderly population has grown, the incidence of cognitive decline and dementia has increased substantially as the brain ages.
Each group in the study was made up of 28 men and 22 women ranging in age from 24 to 77. Those who meditated had been doing so for four to 46 years, with an average of 20 years.
The participants' brains were scanned using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging. Although the researchers found a negative correlation between gray matter and age in both groups of people -- suggesting a loss of brain tissue with increasing age -- they also found that large parts of the gray matter in the brains of those who meditated seemed to be better preserved, Kurth said.
The researchers cautioned that they cannot draw a direct, causal connection between meditation and preserving gray matter in the brain. Too many other factors may come into play, including lifestyle choices, personality traits, and genetic brain differences.