Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital determined that mantra-based meditation can have a positive impact on emotional responses to stress, fatigue and anxiety in adults with memory impairment and memory loss. Their findings are published in the recent issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
Their study placed 15 older adults with memory problems ranging from mild age-associated memory impairment to mild impairment with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease on a regimen of Kirtan Kriya, a mantra-based meditation, for 12 minutes a day for eight weeks. A control group was assigned to listen to classical music for 12 minutes a day for eight weeks.
Earlier results from the study showed significant increases in cerebral blood flow in the prefrontal, superior frontal, and superior parietal cortices as well as improvements in cognitive function.
“We sought to build on this research to determine if changes in cerebral blood flow (CBF) had any correlation with changes in patients’ emotional state, feelings of spirituality and improvements in memory,” said Andrew Newberg, M.D., director of Research at the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine.
“Age-associated cognitive impairment can be accompanied by depression and changes in mood. There is data suggesting that mood disorders can aggravate the processes of cognitive decline,” adds Newberg.
Study participants who performed the mantra-based meditation reported some improvement in tension, fatigue, depression, anger and confusion, with observed significance in tension and fatigue over the control group. There was no significant change observed in spirituality scores.
Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans examined areas of participants’ brains—or regions of interest (ROI)—based on areas previously found to be affected during meditation tasks, and that serve a number of cognitive and affective responses, at baseline and eight weeks.
Significant correlations were observed between the change in CBF and the change in patient-reported mood states. Areas including the amygdala, which has a role in the formation and storage of memories associated with emotional events; and the caudate, thought to be highly involved in learning and memory, correlated with depression scores while the prefrontal cortex, inferior frontal lobe, parietal region, and cingulate cortex correlated with feelings of tension. Significant correlations between the improvement in scores for confusion and depression and change in verbal memory suggest that the improvement in feelings of confusion and depression was related to the cognitive improvement.
“This study is one of a growing body of neuroimaging studies to illustrate the neurological and biological impact of meditation, highlighting brain regions that regulate attention control, emotional states, and memory.
“It is a first step in understanding the neurophysiologic impact of this and similar meditative practices,” says Dr. Newberg.
This research was funded by the Alzheimer Research and Prevention Foundation, Tucson, AZ.
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