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Journal Articles Scientific Reports Year : 2017

Reduced age-associated brain changes in expert meditators: a multimodal neuroimaging pilot study

Gaël Chételat
Matthieu Ricard
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Aging is associated with progressive cerebral volume and glucose metabolism decreases. Conditions such as stress and sleep difficulties exacerbate these changes and are risk factors for Alzheimer's disease. Meditation practice, aiming towards stress reduction and emotion regulation, can downregulate these adverse factors. In this pilot study, we explored the possibility that lifelong meditation practice might reduce age-related brain changes by comparing structural MRI and FDG-PET data in 6 elderly expert meditators versus 67 elderly controls. We found increased gray matter volume and/or FDG metabolism in elderly expert meditators compared to controls in the bilateral ventromedial prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex, insula, temporo-parietal junction, and posterior cingulate cortex /precuneus. Most of these regions were also those exhibiting the strongest effects of age when assessed in a cohort of 186 controls aged 20 to 87 years. Moreover, complementary analyses showed that these changes were still observed when adjusting for lifestyle factors or using a smaller group of controls matched for education. Pending replication in a larger cohort of elderly expert meditators and longitudinal studies, these findings suggest that meditation practice could reduce age-associated structural and functional brain changes. Aging is associated with a number of changes in the brain that, collectively, contribute to the decline in cognitive function observed in older adults. Neuroimaging studies have allowed us to track age-related macroscopic, structural, functional and molecular brain changes. They have shown substantial decreases with age in cerebral volume and glucose metabolism 1, 2. These changes are not homogeneous throughout the brain as they predominate in the frontal cortex and are also often reported in the anterior cingulate cortex, insula, sensorimotor, and perisylvian regions 1–3. Other parietal and temporal brain regions, including the hippocampus, seem to be involved as well, yet findings are less consistent across studies. Age-related decreases in brain structure and function are known to be associated with decline in cog-nitive performance, especially in executive functions and episodic memory 2, 4. Age is also associated with a significant increase in β-amyloid (Aβ) deposition, as measured with positron emission tomography (TEP) using different amyloid radiotracers 5, 6. Decreased gray matter (GM) brain volume (especially in the hippocampus and temporal neocortex), and glucose metabolism (in the posterior cingulate cortex and temporo-parietal region), and the presence of Aβ dep-osition, are known to be associated with increased risk for dementia, and particularly for Alzheimer's disease (AD). It is increasingly acknowledged that several lifestyle factors modulate brain aging and the development of dementia; around a third of AD cases may be attributable to potentially modifiable risk factors 7. These findings are of considerable interest as they suggest that a modification in these lifestyle factors might allow for the
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hal-01599353 , version 1 (02-10-2017)



Gaël Chételat, Florence Mézenge, Clémence Tomadesso, Brigitte Landeau, Eider M Arenaza-Urquijo, et al.. Reduced age-associated brain changes in expert meditators: a multimodal neuroimaging pilot study. Scientific Reports, 2017, 7 (1), pp.1721 - 1731. ⟨10.1038/s41598-017-07764-x⟩. ⟨hal-01599353⟩
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