Say om, save your smarts

Regions of your brain-namely the areas that are responsible for decision making, attention, and memory--begin eroding in your early 20s. Now, Harvard researchers say making room in your schedule for weekly "om time" could protect you.

MRI scans of the brains of 20 long-time daily meditators and 15 nonmeditators revealed that the parts of the brain that control those smarts-related processes were thicker in meditators. Indeed, 40-year-old meditators' brains rivaled those of nonmeditators in their 20s. Thicker seems to equal bigger neurons or a better blood supply, both of which could help the brain function better, says lead researcher Sara W. Lazar, PhD.

"Meditation may help because scans show it engages these areas of the brain: It's like exercising a muscle," Lazar says. Meditators in this study practiced a particular form called Insight for an average of 40 minutes daily. It's considered a mindfulness-based form of stress reduction, but Lazar suspects that many meditation types--including other widely taught, nonreligious styles--would work, too. She recommends meditating at least once or twice a week. (For a basic guide to meditation, see www.prevention.com/meditation).

PHOTO (COLOR): The pause that preserves

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By S. N. H.

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