The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reports that researchers from the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital have discovered that adults with memory impairment and memory loss may benefit from mantra-based meditation, which has a positive effect on people’s emotional responses to stress, fatigue and anxiety.

For their study, the researchers enrolled 15 older adults with memory problems that ranged from mild age-associated memory impairment to mild impairment, with Alzheimer’s disease on a Kirtan Kriya (KK) mantra-based meditation course, that involved 12 minutes of meditation, per day, for a period of eight weeks, and a control group to listen to classical music for the same amount of time over 8 weeks.

Preliminary findings revealed a substantial increase in cerebral blood flow in the patients’ prefrontal, superior frontal, and superior parietal cortices, and also better cognitive function.

Andrew Newberg, M.D., director of Research at the Jefferson Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine explained:

“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. 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.”

The findings demonstrated that participants in the meditation group showed some improvement in fatigue, tension, anger, confusion and depression, and whilst the researchers noted a substantial improvement in tension and fatigue, compared with the control group, they did not observe significant changes with regard to spirituality scores.

They examined the participants’ brains and other regions of interest (ROI) by using single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans at baseline and at 8-weeks. The location of the scans was based on regions that the researchers earlier found were affected during the meditation tasks, and that are involved in various cognitive and affective responses.

The results showed an important relationship between the change in CBF and the change of the patients’ reported mood states. For instance, whilst regions like the amygdala, which impact memory formation and storage linked to emotional events, as well as the caudate, which is thought to be strongly involved in learning and memory related to depression scores, areas like the prefrontal cortex, inferior frontal lobe, parietal region, and cingulate cortex were related with tension.

The fact that researchers observed substantial associations between improved scores for confusion, depression and change in verbal memory indicates that improvements of depression and confusion are linked to cognitive improvement.

Dr. Newberg concludes:

“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.”

Written by Petra Rattue