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Can Meditation Reduce Cognitive Decline in Older Adults?

02 Oct

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School as well as Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany and Maastricht University in the Netherlands, conducted a meta-analysis of studies investigating the potential effects of meditation on age-related cognitive decline.

Studies have already established that meditation can have positive effects on cognition in younger and middle-aged adults. This review explored whether it might do the same for older adults and perhaps even delay or reduce cognitive decline.

Analysts searched the Web of Science (1900 to present), PsycINFO (1957 to present), MEDLINE (1950 to present), and CABI (1910 to present) to identify original studies investigating the effects of meditation on cognition and cognitive decline in the context of aging.

Twelve studies were included in the review, six of which were randomized controlled trials. Studies involved a wide variety of meditation techniques and reported preliminary positive effects on attention, memory, executive function, processing speed, and general cognition. Reported dropout rates were low and compliance rates high.

However, most studies had a high risk of bias and small sample sizes.

The researchers conclude that meditation interventions for older adults are feasible, and preliminary evidence suggests that meditation can offset age-related cognitive decline.

Citation:  Gard T1, Hölzel BK, Lazar SW  The potential effects of meditation on age-related cognitive decline: a systematic review. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2014 Jan; 1307: pages 89-103.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award.