The clearest symptom associated with Alzheimer’s is memory problems. Chances are, you have or know someone older that is close to you and is a victim of the terrible Alzheimer’s disease. Now, a new study conducted by scientists in France has found that regular meditation could prevent memory loss by preserving brain structure and function in older adults.
Alzheimer’s disease could take a negative toll on the region of the brain controlling memory, thought, and language. For this reason, scientists have been scrambling for strategies to prevent dementia from the onset. While more research is necessary, their findings suggest that mindful meditation can boost attention, self-awareness, and the ability to manage emotions. Most of which are lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.
Previous studies have linked mindfulness meditation to improved cognition, particularly in older adults. However, studies on psycho-affective risk factors such as depression, stress, and anxiety (faculties that are major targets of mindfulness meditation), in dementia, are lacking.
Researchers were curious to investigate the influence of an 18-month course of meditation treatment on the brain cells of older adults.
In a recent study published in JAMA Neurology, a team of scientists examined 137 French participants above the age of 65. Researchers split the participants and randomly assigned them into 3 distinct groups: 45 participants were placed in a meditation-based training group, 46 in English learning groups, and 46 in a group of no intervention.
Both the meditation and English learning groups were to undergo 2-hour weekly group sessions based on the instructions given for each treatment. They were also to engage in at least 20mins daily home practices coupled with a 5-hour intensive daily practice for both treatments. The English learning test was a way to access the participant’s ability to comprehend, write, as well as talk.
On the other hand, those in the no-intervention group were instructed to go about their usual activities; not changing their habits.
For the result, the researchers found a higher beneficial effect of meditation than English language lessons based on the global composite score showing attention regulation, socioemotional, and self-knowledge abilities. (Most decreases in this global composite score are usually tied to an increase in Alzheimer’s disease onset).
This means that a mental training approach toward attention and regulating emotions can promote brain health.
Although, it’s worth noting that based on the result, the researchers figured that 18 months is not ample time for meditation to impact significant changes in brain function. Likewise, to stop the cognitive decline that occurs at older ages. For increased chances of improvements in brain memory function, the team suggests adopting good meditation practices from a younger age.
The scientist who led the study, Dr. Chételat concluded that “The study findings confirm the feasibility of meditation and non-native language training in elderly individuals, with high adherence and very low attrition”.
Finally, this ancient relaxation technique is an effective approach to not only preserve brain function and structure, but also cognition. This will in part, lower the risks of dementia by directly targeting psycho-affective factors.