A study conducted by my former lab at Massachusetts General Hospital recently examined the effects of regular meditation practice on the structure of the brain.
The study showed that, among other results, the thickness of particular areas of the cerebral cortex was different for regular meditators than it was for an age-matched comparison group. Additionally, the study showed that this effect was more pronounced in the older meditators studied than it was in the young ones. This may be interpreted as suggesting meditation slows natural aging processes in certain parts of the brain. While more research is certainly needed to corroborate these findings, they are very intriguing. This study was led by Dr. Sara Lazar, and investigated a type of meditation called Insight meditation, a form of Buddhist spiritual practice that is practiced in Myanmar and Thailand. Mindfulness meditation is derived from this tradition.