Improve Cognitive Function in Minutes HOWMEDITATION CANHELP THE AGING BRAIN
time meditators don’t show a decline in the thickness of the prefrontal cortex
Meditation has often been touted by New Age gurus as a way to find inner peace and stillness. But what if meditating could reduce the effects of aging on your brain? According to research, taking a fewminutes out of your day to meditate may improve cognitive function. As meditation’s popularity has spread, so have studies of the practice. The results of 100 studies examining the cognitive effects of meditation all show evidence of improvements in psychological and cognitive functions. Some of the results are intuitive, such as howmeditation helps us deal with stress. But other results are incontrovertible, such as scans showing that meditation causes structural changes in the brain. For people facing age-related changes like memory loss, the results of these tests are especially relevant. The studies point to evidence that meditation can strengthen certain areas of the brain— the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus, and the amygdala— that weaken as we age. THE PREFRONTAL CORTEX Your prefrontal cortex thins with age, which is associated with decreased cognitive function in your later years. However, meditationmay reduce this age-related thinning. Dr. Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist specializing in the effects of yoga andmeditation on cognitive and behavioral function, reports that long-
Your hippocampus helps you process and formnewmemories, and it’s very sensitive to stress. In fact, research shows that your hippocampus will shrink in response to stressful situations and chronic stress. The remedy? Meditation. Dr. Lazar’s study showed a positive correlation betweenmeditation and a higher concentration of gray matter in the left hippocampus. THE AMYGDALA Often called the fear center of the brain, the amygdala is triggered by stressful situations. But unlike the hippocampus, which shrinks in response to stress, the amygdala has been shown to become denser. In one study, people who attendedmindfulness meditation classes showed a smaller stress response in brain scans compared to those who did not attend the classes. Meditationmay help to decrease the density of the amygdala and therefore increase your ability to handle stress. Of course, in addition to these benefits, there’s a good chance that five minutes of meditation each day will simply make you feel better. People whomeditate report an increase in overall well-being. Why not give it a try?
Ice Cream Sandwiches
Inspired by Bon Appetit
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter 1 1/2 ounces store-bought waffle cones, lightly crushed 1 1/2 cups oats 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1. Heat oven to 350 F. While oven is heating, cook butter in saucepan over medium heat until browned, 5–8 minutes. Scrape browned butter into a heatproof measuring glass. 2. Pulse waffle cones, oats, flour, and salt in a food processor or blender. Once cones are finely ground, add brown sugar and pulse again. 3. Whisk egg yolk, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl. Directions
1 teaspoon kosher salt 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed 1 large egg yolk 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 4 pints ice cream (any flavor) 4. Add egg mixture to food processor while spinning on low. Once integrated, slowly add browned butter; blend until dough forms a solid mass around blades. 5. Form dough into 26 balls and place 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten balls and bake 12–15 minutes or until edges begin to brown. 6. Let cool, then spread ice cream between cookies to make sandwiches. 7. Freeze for up to 5 days
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