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Forget about memory loss: Meditation and music used to reverse early memory loss in adults

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Alzheimer’s disease affects an estimated 44 million people worldwide, and is a top cause of disabilities in later life. Predictions show that the number of sufferers in the United States is set to rise from 5.3 million to 16 million in the next 30 years. However, a recent study on 60 patients by West Virginia University, published by the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease, showed promising developments. Upon the introduction of either meditation or music listening into the daily routines of adults with subjective cognitive decline, (a strong predictor of Alzheimer’s disease) subjective memory function and objective cognitive performance were enhanced.

While effective therapies for preventing cognitive decline are hard to come by, a recent study suggested that mind body interventions could provide treatment. Keen to investigate further, epidemiologist Dr. Kim Innes led the team from West Virginia University and focused on the effects of the Kirtan Kriya meditation technique and general music listening. 60 patients were randomly assigned one of the two activities to partake in for 12 minutes per day. Over a 6 month period the participants’ memory and cognitive functions were assessed by a memory functioning questionnaire, trail-making test, and a digit-symbol substitution test. At the 3-month stage, where an average of 93% of sessions were performed by the subjects, there were significant improvements. By the 6-month point, 88% of the original test group had maintained or even improved their cognitive performance.

The results gathered from this preliminary trial show that the practice of meditation and music listening actively impeded the deterioration of cognitive decline, thus improving overall memory.

The results gathered from this preliminary trial show that the practice of meditation and music listening actively impeded the deterioration of cognitive decline, thus improving overall memory. Improvements were also seen in the participants’ sleep, mood, stress, wellbeing and quality of life, which are factors that are noted by scientists as the cause of most cases of Alzheimer’s.

This study is not the first to suggest a link between the use of music and meditation to enhance the memory and support cognitive development. Previous research using neuro-imaging found that practising meditation caused the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with awareness and decision making, to become thicker. It seems that the medical profession has already caught onto this idea as Dr. Innes stated “a rising number of hospitals and other health care organisations in the US also offer courses in yoga and meditation to patients seeking methods to relieve symptoms.”

Looking forward, Dr. Innes hopes that the findings of the trial “will encourage those with memory loss and their providers to consider these simple mind-body practices, given that they can have multiple benefits.” For the last 20 years the media has been full of claims of finding the Alzheimer’s ‘wonder drug’, but maybe the investment has been put into the wrong field. Perhaps more studies like this should be conducted to help slow down the decline of patients who show early signs of Alzheimer’s.

Although a lot is being done to find cures for the disease, this study provides a way to reduce the chances of it even becoming a reality for some.

Welcoming the research, Former Prime Minister David Cameron, who was recently appointed President of Alzheimer’s research UK, said “Dementia is not inevitable and research is our greatest weapon against it…(Dementia) steals people’s lives, turns their relationships upside down, destroys their hopes and dreams.” Although a lot is being done to find cures for the disease, this study provides a way to reduce the chances of it even becoming a reality for some.

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