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The impact of meditation on healthy ageing — the current state of knowledge and a roadmap to future directions

Abstract : There is increasing evidence that meditation-based training promotes healthy ageing across many dimensions. This review summarizes the existing knowledge on the effects of meditation training on healthy ageing in the domains of emotions, cognition (with a special emphasis on attentional processes), and the preservation of related brain structures. Although evidence so far is promising, more rigorous randomized controlled studies with active control groups and long-term follow-up in older people are needed. We outline how these challenges can be addressed in future studies using the example of an ongoing project, Medit-Ageing (public name: Silver Santé Study), including two independent randomized controlled trials (RCT) as well as one cross-sectional study with meditation experts. With increases in life expectancy worldwide [1], promoting healthy ageing becomes increasingly important. Healthy ageing is not only crucial for maintaining the quality of life in older individuals, but also to enable elderly people to thrive in their role in society, be it in their profession or in their private lives (e.g. as grandparents or friends). In recent years, it has been recognized that meditation-based training offers a promising strategy to promote healthy ageing [2 ]. Indeed, the effects of meditation training are increasingly studied in young and middle-age adults. However, there is still relatively little research on the impact of meditation training on older adults. This review summarizes evidence on how meditation can contribute to healthy ageing and optimize cognitive and emotional processes impacted by ageing. It ends by outlining future research avenues. In order to investigate the effects of meditation training on cognition and emotion, usually two types of studies are employed: (i) cross-sectional studies comparing experienced meditators with non-meditators and (ii) longitudinal studies comparing meditation training to a control group. The most prevalent form of training employed in longitudinal studies is mindfulness meditation. Mindful-ness meditation consists of cultivating a vigilant awareness of one's own thoughts, actions, emotions, and motivations. In mindfulness meditation, one learns to intentionally attend to internal or external experiences in the present moment, without making any value judgment [3]. Meditation training may delay dementia and promote healthy ageing Dementia currently affects 50 million people worldwide [4], and is broadly defined by brain atrophy, significant decline in cognitive and/or behavioral functioning, and loss of ability to live independently [5]. In so far as meditation practice has been shown to improve cognition, wellbeing, and health in older age, it could potentially contribute to delay onset of dementia. Preliminary evidence suggests that meditation training preserves brain structure, glucose metabolism, and brain connectivity in older adults Cross-sectional evidence from several studies in expert meditators suggests that meditation may preserve brain structure and glucose metabolism. First studies in this domain showed a preservation of cortical thickness and grey matter volumes in young and middle-age meditation experts [6], as well as reduced age-related atrophy of brain grey matter volume in meditators compared to non-med-itators, particularly in hippocampus, frontal and temporal brain regions [7,8]. In a recent study, grey matter brain volumes and glucose metabolism from six older-adult expert meditators were compared with 67 age-matched
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Submitted on : Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - 11:08:09 AM
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Géraldine Poisnel, Gaël Chételat, Olga Klimecki, Natalie Marchant, Antoine Lutz, et al.. The impact of meditation on healthy ageing — the current state of knowledge and a roadmap to future directions. Current Opinion in Psychology, Elsevier, 2019, 28, pp.223-228. ⟨10.1016/j.copsyc.2019.01.006⟩. ⟨inserm-02746970⟩

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