Hyderabad: Can meditation slow down Alzheimer’s Disease? A new study by the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad and the Neurology Department, Apollo Multispeciality Hospital, Kolkata that was published in ‘Frontiers in Human Neuroscience’ suggests so.
According to an IIIT-H blog, the Department of Science and Technology-backed study conducted jointly by the IIIT-H and Apollo, Kolkata’s Neurology Department reveals that simple home-based meditation can actually change the brain structure and increase grey matter content in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and mild Alzheimer’s disease.
A joint research team led by Dr. Amitabha Ghosh, Head of Department, Neurology, Apollo, Kolkata and researcher Neha Dubey, along with Dr. Bapi Raju from IIIT-H’s Cognitive Science Research Centre and his students Madhukar Dwivedi and Aditya Jain Pansari, attempted to see the effects of meditation on MCI patients and those with early Alzheimer’s disease.
The team recruited patients with MCI or mild Alzheimer’s disease and assigned them into Meditation and Control groups. Before the start of the experimental period, both groups had MRI scans of their brain taken. The Meditation group was taught to meditate at home for 30 minutes each day in a quiet, sitting posture by following audio instructions from a CD. When both groups had their brain images retaken after a period of 6 months, the researchers found that the patients in the Meditation group showed a significant increase in cortical thickness and grey matter volume mainly in the pre-frontal area of the brain. It also coincided with a reduced thickness in the posterior part of the brain.
According to Dr. Ghosh, patients with MCI or Alzheimer’s disease lose attention, get distracted and have memory lapses. Through meditation, one is taught to increase one’s focus and to consciously disengage from floating thoughts. The team’s findings of increased grey matter in the frontal area also corroborate the fact that it is this region that is engaged in attention, decision-making and goal-directed behaviour. The meditation, being a guided process, was simplified enough to allow even those with early memory loss to follow at home.
Dr. Bapi Raju said IIIT-H collected data at two time points, at the start of the therapy and at the end of the 6-month period. The comparison revealed significant changes. “Seeing this happen in the meditation group gives us confidence that this kind of intervention will be viable and useful for patients with memory disorders,” he said.
With the initial study showing promise on protection against memory loss with sustained and simple meditation practice, the team plans on following it up with a larger number of participants and over a longer duration period.
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