Meditation, Music May Help Reverse Early Memory Loss in Adults with Alzheimer’s Risk

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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Alzheimer's disease and meditation

Meditating or listening to music may benefit adults with preclinical memory loss, including those at risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a new study found.

A West Virginia University research team, led by Kim Innes, PhD, conducted a randomized, controlled clinical trial in 60 adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD), a condition that might be associated with preclinical-stage AD. They found that beginner meditation (Kirtan Kriya, or KK) or listening to music for 12 minutes a day for three months had significant benefits.

The team detailed its findings in the study, “Meditation and Music Improve Memory and Cognitive Function in Adults with Subjective Cognitive Decline: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.” It was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Participants were assigned to KK or a music listening (ML) program, and asked to practice 12 minutes per day for three months, then at their discretion for three months. Their memory and cognitive function were measured at baseline, three months and six months using the memory functioning questionnaire (MFQ), trail making test (TMT-A/B), and digit-symbol substitution test (DSST).

53 people (88%) completed the study.

Participants performed an average of 93% of sessions (91% in the KK group and 94% in ML) in the first three months, and 71% of sessions (68% in KK and 74% in ML) during the three-month follow-up period.

Both groups showed significant improvements at three months in memory and cognitive performance. At six months, overall gains were maintained or improved. The benefits did not differ by age, gender, baseline cognition scores, or any other factor.

The improvements were in cognitive functioning areas most likely to be affected in preclinical and early stages of dementia, such as attention, executive function, and subjective memory function. There were substantial gains in memory and cognition, and they were sustained or enhanced at the six-month mark.

In another paper, the team said both study groups showed improvements in sleep, mood, stress, well-being, and quality of life, particularly those in the mediation group. All the benefits were sustained or enhanced post-intervention, the researchers said.

“The findings of this trial suggest that two simple mind-body practices, Kirtan Kriya meditation and music listening, may not only improve mood, sleep, and quality of life, but also boost cognition and help reverse perceived memory loss in older adults with SCD,” the team wrote.