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The relaxation response: reducing stress and improving cognition in healthy aging adults.

27 Oct

A five week training in the Relaxation Response at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center significantly improved performance on a simple attention task but did not effect complex attention, verbal, or visual declarative memory tests.

Researchers at the Mind/Body Medical Institute of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, looked at the efficacy of the Relaxation Response (RR) in helping to decrease anxiety and accompanying salivary cortisol levels, as well as improve memory and attention span in healthy older adults.

Fifteen older adults participated and were randomly assigned to either RR training or control groups. The mean age was 71.3 years and the mean educational level was 17.9 years.

The study found that after RR training, reaction time on a simple attention & psychomotor task was significantly improved (p<0.0025), but there was no significant improvement on complex tasks of attention, verbal, or visual declarative memory tests.

Self-reported state anxiety levels showed a marginally significant reduction (p<0.066). All subjects'' salivary cortisol levels were within low-normal range and did not significantly change.

In summary, this 5-week program in highly educated, mobile, healthy, aging adults significantly improved performance on a simple attention task only.

Citation: Galvin JA, Benson H, Deckro GR, Fricchione GL, Dusek JA. The relaxation response: reducing stress and improving cognition in healthy aging adults. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2006 Aug;12(3):186-91. Epub 2006 Jun 5
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