Alzheimer’s: the modern memory scourge with no cure and no lasting treatment options. The apparent futility of the quest for a pharmaceutical cure has led some scientists to examine the possibility of alternative therapies.
One method that has garnered particular attention in recent years is meditation—specifically those practices that emphasize mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation encourages practitioners to turn their awareness to the present moment and accept the current state of their lives and their being. Past and future don’t matter when one is truly mindful of their present selves.
Over the long-term, mindfulness meditation actually alters an individual’s brain chemistry and functioning.
A recent study has even linked the practice with positive neurological changes in people with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) a dementia precursor condition that often manifests in Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center conducted functional MRI (fMRI) scans on the brains of adults, some of whom were cognitively normal and some who had been diagnosed with MCI.
The adults were split up into two groups. One group received care that was typical for their health conditions, while the other group engaged in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)—a program utilizing meditation and yoga to cultivate a sense of mindful awareness—for at least two hours a week, for eight weeks. The MBSR group was also advised to cultivate a daily mindfulness practice on their own for at least 15 minutes.
When researchers compared the before and after fMRI scans of the two groups, they found that those who’d participated in the mindfulness practice experienced less degeneration in their hippocampus, the section of the brain responsible for major learning, memory and emotional functions, and enhanced connectivity in their Default Mode Network, a neurological system often associated with daydreaming and memory retrieval. These observations held true, regardless of whether the individual had MCI or was cognitively normal. (MORE)