Scientists have confirmed what mystics have known for centuries: Meditation can bring about a variety of improvements in a practitioner’s state of mind – from improved memory to less anxiety.
Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital have shown that mantra-based meditation can have a positive impact on emotional responses to stress, as well as fatigue and depression in patients with memory loss.
The study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, involved 15 older adults with mild to major memory problems who practiced meditation for 12 minutes a day for eight weeks. Researchers then compared them to a non-medicating group that listened to classical music for 12 minutes a day for eight weeks.
Researchers had previously found significant increases in cognitive functions of meditating seniors as well as increased blood flow in regions of the brain linked to emotions.
“We sought to build on this research to determine if changes in cerebral blood flow had any correlation with changes in patients’ emotional state, feelings of spirituality and improvements in memory,” said Dr. Andrew Newberg, director of Research at the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine.
What Newberg and his colleagues found was that meditating seniors in the new study reported greater improvements in tension, fatigue, depression, anger and confusion than the group that listened to music.
Brain scans of the meditating seniors also identified changes in regions of the brain linked to memories, learning, tension, depression and emotions.
“This study is one of a growing body of neuroimaging studies to illustrate the neurological and biological impact of meditation, highlighting brain regions that regulate attention control, emotional states, and memory,” said Newberg. “It is a first step in understanding the neurophysiologic impact of this and similar meditative practice.”
The study was funded by the Alzheimer Research and Prevention Foundation.