Meditation a tool against Alzheimer's, study finds

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Meditation and yoga could become weapons in the fight against the advancement of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease in residents with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) according to new research.

A limited study showed adult patients with MCI showed an increase in functional connectivity after eight weeks of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) therapy compared to those whose care program remained static.

"MBSR is a relatively simple intervention, with very little downside, that may provide real promise for these individuals,” said lead author Rebecca Erwin Wells, M.D., MPH, assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

“If [it] can help delay the symptoms of cognitive decline even a little bit, it can contribute to improved quality of life," Wells said.

The brain regions that showed improvement included the posterior cingulate cortex (memory-related functions), the bilateral medial prefrontal cortex, and the left hippocampus. “A trend" toward less bilateral hippocampal volume atrophy was also discovered in the patients who received MBSR.

Fourteen adults aged 54 or older years with MCI took part in the study, which was conducted in 2010 and 2011. The subjects were randomly assigned to receive either MBSR (n = 9; mean age, 73 years) or usual care (control group; n = 5; mean age, 75 years).

The MBSR group received 2-hour sessions each week and one "mindfulness retreat day." The group was also encouraged to listen to 30 minutes of guided audio recordings per day at home.

Each study participant received resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) at baseline and eight weeks to measure connectivity changes in areas of the default mode network.

The study is scheduled to be in Neuroscience Letters today.