Brain Gray Matter Changes Associated with Mindfulness Meditation in Older Adults: An Exploratory Pilot Study using Voxel based Morphometry
Mindfulness-based Interventions train participants in formalized and systematic
mainstreamed mindfulness meditation practices, which are shown to impart
significant improvements in stress-related ailments in age groups spanning childhood to adulthood.
Mind body practices are more recently showing utility for improving the health of older adults.
Neural mechanisms, both functional and structural, may underlie some of these observed benefits.
As shown with magnetic resonance imaging, MBIs as brief as eight weeks can modulate
the brain structure of young and mid-aged adults, and several cross-sectional studies note
significant links between mindfulness practice and gray matter configuration.
However, as the effects of MBIs on brain structure have been predominantly
investigated in younger and middle-aged cohorts, it remains unknown if and
how MBIs impact brain structure specifically in older adults.
Outcomes from this exploratory, data-generating, study demonstrate that after
the course of a six-week standardized mindfulness meditation program,
significant changes in local gray matter were observed in older adults with sleep complaints.
Although mindfulness-induced gray matter changes have been detected and described previously,
the current findings are particularly interesting given the mature age of the participants.
Gray matter changes due to MBIs were previously reported in a group of young and healthy,
albeit stressed, individuals. Such changes in brain anatomy observed in young populations,
however, cannot be easily extrapolated to older adults.
Neuro Open J. 2014; 1(1): 23-26. doi: 10.17140/NOJ-1-106