Eileen Luders, assistant professor at the University of California Los Angeles Lab of Neuro Imaging, and colleagues have found that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification (folding of the cortex, which may allow the brain to act faster, with a host of benefits) than non-meditators.
Further, the amount of gyrification and years of meditation were found to be directly linked, offering more proof of the brain's adaptability to environmental changes, the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience reports.
The cerebral cortex is the outermost layer of neural (brain) tissue, which plays a key role in memory, attention, thought and consciousness.
Hence, the greater the gyrification or folding, the better the brain is at processing information, making decisions, forming memories and so forth, according to a California statement.
"Rather than just comparing meditators and non-meditators, we wanted to see if there is a link between the amount of meditation practice and the extent of brain alteration," said Luders. "That is, correlating the number of years of meditation with the degree of folding."
The researchers took MRI scans of 50 meditators, 28 men and 22 women, and compared them to 50 non-meditators matched for age, handedness and sex. The scans for second group were obtained from an existing MRI database, while the meditators were recruited from various meditation venues.
The meditators had practiced their craft on average for 20 years using a variety of meditation types -- Samatha, Vipassana, Zen and more. The researchers applied a well-established and automated whole-brain approach to measure cortical gyrification at thousands of points across the surface of the brain.
They found pronounced group differences. Perhaps most interesting, though, was the positive correlation between the number of meditation years and the amount of gyrification.