Brain researcher Sara Lazar has demonstrated that a serious meditation practice protects against the cortical thinning that normally occurs in old age. This is believed to result in higher cognitive functioning in an age group that has traditionally been seen to have diminished cognitive functioning. This study demonstrated that one small region of the prefrontal cortex in experienced vipassana meditators showed none of the age-related cortical thinning that would normally have been expected. Along with one of her colleagues, neuroscience researcher Michael Treadway, she replicated that study with Zen practitioners and produced the same results. This and other studies seem to indicate that the choice between vipassana or Zen is of little importance, and that what really matters in a committed daily, formal sitting meditation practice.
How to enhance emotional intelligence
According to research psychologist J. David Creswell, mindfulness practice results in increased activation of the medial prefrontal cortex along with simultaneous decreased activation of the amygdala. These researchers hypothesize that mindfulness practice correlates with enhanced prefrontal regulation of limbic responses. This likely enhances emotional intelligence, which is one of the contributors to environmental mastery.