Mediteren voor onze grijze cellen – tegengaan van veroudering

Mediteren voor onze grijze cellen – tegengaan van veroudering

Het volgende artikel gaat over een over onderzoek uitgevoerd door andere het UCLA Brain Mapping Center en is gepubliceerd in Frontiers in Psychology.

Het artikel is de originele versie, gepubliceerd in het Engels en er onder staat een (kortere) vertaling door Dennis Rijnvis.

Forever young: Meditation might slow the age-related loss of gray matter in the brain, say UCLA researchers

by Mark Wheeler 

Courtesy of Dr. Eileen Luders

Areas of the brain affected by aging (in red) are fewer and less widespread in people who meditate, bottom row, than in people who don’t meditate.

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.

So although people might be living longer, the years they gain often come with increased risks for mental illness and neurodegenerative disease. Fortunately, a new study shows meditation could be one way to minimise those risks.

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.

The article appears in the current online edition of the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

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.

“In that light, it seems essential that longer life expectancies do not come at the cost of a reduced quality of life,” said Dr. Eileen Luders, first author and assistant professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “While much research has focused on identifying factors that increase the risk of mental illness and neurodegenerative decline, relatively less attention has been turned to approaches aimed at enhancing cerebral health.”

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.

“Still, our results are promising,” Luders said. “Hopefully they will stimulate other studies exploring the potential of meditation to better preserve our aging brains and minds. Accumulating scientific evidence that meditation has brain-altering capabilities might ultimately allow for an effective translation from research to practice, not only in the framework of healthy aging but also pathological aging.”

The research was supported by the Brain Mapping Medical Research Organization, the Robson Family and Northstar Fund, the Brain Mapping Support Foundation, the Pierson‐Lovelace Foundation, the Ahmanson Foundation, the Tamkin Foundation, the William M. and Linda R. Dietel Philanthropic Fund at the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation, the Jennifer Jones‐Simon Foundation, the Capital Group Companies Foundation and an Australian Research Council fellowship (120100227). Nicolas Cherbuin of the Australian National University was also an author of the study.

Uittreksel in het Nederlands door: Dennis Rijnvis

Meditatie lijkt bepaalde delen van het menselijk brein te beschermen tegen ouderdom.

Mensen die jarenlang regelmatig mediteren, vertonen een relatief kleine afname van grijze stof in hun hersenen als ze ouder worden.

Dat melden Amerikaanse onderzoekers in het wetenschappelijk tijdschrift Frontiers in Psychology.

De afname van grijze stof begint normaal gesproken rond het twintigste levensjaar en zorgt ervoor dat het menselijk brein op latere leeftijd vatbaarder wordt voor ouderdomsziektes, zoals alzheimer.

De aanwijzingen voor het beschermende effect van meditatie vonden de wetenschappers bij een studie, waarbij MRI-scans werden gemaakt van vijftig proefpersonen. De helft van die mensen deed gemiddeld al twintig jaar aan meditatie. De andere helft van de proefpersonen mediteerde nooit.

Volume grijze massa

De resultaten waren tot op zekere hoogte niet verrassend: hoe ouder de proefpersonen, hoe meer het volume van grijze stof in hun brein was afgenomen.

Maar bij de mediterende deelnemers aan de studie was er wel iets opmerkelijks te zien. De grijze stof in hun hersenen was op latere leeftijd gemiddeld minder sterk geslonken dan bij de andere proefpersonen.

Het gaat om een kleine studie, die nog moet worden herhaald voordat wetenschappers definitieve conclusies kunnen trekken over de invloed van meditatie op de afname van grijze stof.

Veelbelovend

“Maar de resultaten zijn veelbelovend”, verklaart onderzoekster Eileen Lunders op de nieuwssite van de Universiteit van Californië.

“We moeten met meer wetenschappelijk onderzoek verkennen of we ons brein kunnen beschermen tegen ouderdom met meditatie.”

Grijze stof bevindt zich in de hersenen vooral aan de buitenkant en heeft als functie het verwerken van informatie.

Eerdere studies suggereren dat meditatie ook andere structuren in het brein kan beschermen, zoals witte stof. Daarnaast worden meditatievormen al ingezet als behandeling voor depressiviteit.

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