Meditation, music may prevent or slow cognitive decline: study

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Kim Innes, Ph.D.
Kim Innes, Ph.D.

Meditating or listening to music may prevent or slow cognitive decline in older adults, according to new research published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Researchers from West Virginia University came to that conclusion after studying 60 older adults who had subjective cognitive decline, a condition that may be a preclinical stage of Alzheimer's disease. Some of the study participants were residents of senior housing and independent living communities, lead author Kim Innes, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the WVU School of Public Health, told McKnight's Senior Living.

The older adults were assigned randomly either to a beginner meditation program (Kirtan Kriya) or a music-listening program and were asked to practice 12 minutes a day for 12 weeks. When they were assessed at the end of the 12 weeks, adults in both groups were found to have experienced marked and significant improvements in their subjective memory function and objective cognitive performance, and three months later, the gains in memory and cognition were found to have been maintained or had improved. Specifically, gains were seen in domains of cognitive functioning most likely to be affected in the preclinical and early stages of dementia — for instance, attention, executive function, processing speed and subjective memory function.

The researchers previously had studied meditation and music and found that both improved sleep, mood, stress, well-being and quality of life, with gains that were that were particularly noticeable in the meditation group. Again, all benefits were sustained or further enhanced three months after that study had ended.

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