BOSTON, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Regular meditation appears to produce structural changes in areas of the brain linked to attention and sensory processing, says a U.S. study.
A Massachusetts General Hospital imaging study showed that particular areas of the cerebral cortex -- the outer layer of the brain -- were thicker in participants who were experienced practitioners of a type of meditation commonly practiced in the United States.
"Our results suggest that meditation can produce experience-based structural alterations in the brain," says study leader Sara Lazar. "We also found evidence that meditation may slow down the aging-related atrophy of certain areas of the brain."
Using standard MRI to produce detailed images of the structure of participants' brains, the researchers found that regions involved in the mental activities that characterize Insight meditation were thicker in the meditators than in the controls, the first evidence that alterations in brain structure may be associated with meditation.
The findings appear in NeuroReport and will be presented Monday at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington.