(Natural News) More and more people are practicing meditation with the discovery of its many health benefits. To add to the list, researchers from the University of California Davis found that meditation has positive long-term effects on cognitive health. The study, which was published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, explained how meditation helps delay cognitive decline.
Meditation can improve sustained attention
Despite the fact that it has been around for a long time, not a lot of research has been done on meditation. The present study is the first comprehensive and longitudinal study conducted on meditation. The results showed that meditation’s effects, especially when practiced diligently, could last for years.
The researchers noted that a person’s capacity to sustain attention diminishes as he or she ages. They therefore sought to determine if a person’s focus can be enhanced through directed mental training or meditation.
They began their research by observing 60 participants who went on a meditation retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Lakes, Colorado. The participants trained under B. Alan Wallace, a Buddhist teacher and contemplative scholar.
The researchers assessed the participant’s response inhibition, reaction time variability and vigilance. These are important factors that help quantitatively measure sustained attention. The researchers measured these factors at baseline, during and after the retreat. They conducted three follow-up assessments after 6 months, after 1.5 years and after seven years.
Their findings showed that there were no significant changes in response inhibition accuracy among the participants. This meant that the participants still exhibited moderately similar levels of attention seven years prior.
Meanwhile, continued meditation practice moderated any performance deficits in the participants brought about by age. The researchers reported that those who continued to meditate had better sustained attention, signifying better cognitive aging and maintenance.
Other benefits of meditation on brain health
The study showed that meditation has long-term positive effects and can help maintain or improve attention span. But the brain benefits of meditation include more than just that. Here are some of the other positive effects of meditation on the brain:
It helps protect the brain from age-related decline
Past the age of 20, the brain starts to decrease in volume and weight. This deterioration can lead to an increased risk of mental illness and neurodegenerative diseases. However, researchers from the U.S. and Australia found that the brains of meditation practitioners have more gray matter than non-practitioners. Their findings support the hypothesis that meditation protects the brain and delays brain tissue decline due to age.
It helps control pain
The processing of pain begins in the mind. One study found that people who received mindfulness training managed better when exposed to painful stimuli. The researchers divided study participants into two groups and used functional MRI to monitor their brain activities. They reported that the group that received mindfulness training for four days had increased levels of activity in areas of the brain that control pain compared to the other group. (Related: Meditation changes the way your brain processes emotions.)
It helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease
One study found that meditation – specifically, Kirtan Kriya (KK) – can improve memory in people with subjective cognitive decline. The researchers believe that combining KK (or meditation in general) with other factors like a healthy diet and regular exercise could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Read more on meditation and its health benefits at MindBodyScience.news.