Yoga and meditation may reduce cognitive problems related to Alzheimer and other forms of dementia. A new study found that regular meditation can reduce age-related memory problems.

Neuro-degenerative diseases caused by the decline in the memory, thinking and reasoning skills could potentially be reversed. The new study backing this up was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, on May 10.

It has been proven that Yoga and meditation are more effective than other memory training methods when it comes to improving the brain's functionality. Image Credit: Medical Daily
It has been proven that Yoga and meditation are more effective than other memory training methods when it comes to improving the brain’s functionality. Image Credit: Medical Daily

The research was led by a team of neuroscientists in UCLA. The team found that people with cognitive impairment have a higher probability to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. They say that practicing yoga for three months, as well as meditating, could help minimize cognitive and emotional problems related to those diseases.

They also found that yoga and meditation are more effective than other memory training methods. The second one includes activities like crossword puzzles and commercially available computer programs. This is the first study to compare them both.

The research procedure

The team worked with 25 participants, most of them being 55 years old. The adults had mild cognitive impairment such as problems with memory and thinking. Researchers divided the participants in two groups, and assigned them randomly to each one of them.

The groups were either 12 weeks of meditation and other yoga practices, like Kundalini yoga and Kirtan Kriya meditation. Or 12 weeks of memory enhancement training, which taught strategies for improving forgetfulness. Strategies such as verbal and visual association to remember faces, names, and lists, and other strategies for improving memory, based on scientifically-proven techniques.

Eleven participants were assigned to the second group, and the other 14 participants were assigned to the first group.

The results of the study show that both groups had similar improvements in verbal memory skills, which is used to recall locations and navigate while walking or driving. But the group that meditated and practiced yoga showed a bigger reduction of depression and anxiety. They also showed to improve in coping skills and resilience to stress.

“When you have memory loss, you can get quite anxious about that and it can lead to depression,” said Helen Lavretsky, the study’s senior author and a professor in residence in UCLA’s department of psychiatry.

Benefits and recommendations

The findings are important because dementia can lead to emotional problems, and meditation and yoga can help people with the disease.

Meditation help improve memory because it makes people chant and visualize light, which strengthen verbal and visual skills, as well as attention and awareness. At the same time, yoga seems to increase the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor which stimulates the growth of connections among neurons, the researchers said.

“Historically and anecdotally, yoga has been thought to be beneficial in aging well, but this is the scientific demonstration of that benefit,” said Harris Eyre, the study’s lead author, a doctoral candidate at Australia’s University of Adelaide and a former Fulbright scholar at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

Eyre also said that the new evidence should make doctors recommend these types of therapy to their patients.

Source: Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease