Meditation May Aid Memory in Alzheimer's Patients
Could meditation increase brain activity and improve memory and cognition in people who have Alzheimer’s disease? According to a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, the answer is yes. Results of the study appear in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, the founding president and medical director of the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, is an expert on Kirtan Kriya (KK), the type of meditation used in the new study. Kirtan Kriya is a 12-minute singing exercise in the Kundalini yoga tradition that involves repetitive finger movements plus singing the sounds Saa Taa Naa Maa, ancient primal sounds from Sanskrit.
Meditation is practiced by millions of people around the world, yet this is the first study to explore its potential in reversing memory loss in people who suffer with cognitive impairment, notes Dharma Singh Khalsa.
The study involved 15 individuals aged 52 to 77 years who had memory problems. At the beginning of the study, all the participants underwent cognitive tests and had images of their brains taken using single photo emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans. The subjects were then taught KK and instructed to practice it daily for eight weeks.
A small comparison group of five individuals was also part of the study. These individuals were instructed to listen to two Mozart violin concertos daily for approximately 12 minutes, the same length of time as the KK sessions.
At the end of the eight weeks, both groups of participants underwent cognitive tests and SPECT scans. The researchers found that cerebral blood flow increased in the KK group in the frontal lobe regions and the right superior parietal lobe. Both of these brain regions are involved in retrieving memories.
Subjects in the KK group also had statistically significant improvements in tests that measured cognition, general memory, and attention. Participants in the music group did not show any significant improvements in any of these areas.
Andrew Newberg, MD, associate professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and a co-author of the study, noted that “It would be extremely useful to have a cost-effective, non-pharmacological approach to slowing memory loss.” Although additional studies of the impact of KK meditation is required, the results of this pilot study demonstrates that this form of meditation could be an important tool for helping people who have memory loss, as in Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation
Newberg AB et al. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2010 Apr; 20(2)