Stress-targeted mental training needed to fight dementia: study

Meditation may protect older people against Alzheimer’s disease, study finds.

Meditation boosts attention, awareness and emotional health, abilities that decline with dementia. The conclusions, in the review JAMA Neurologyshed new light on how the disease works and open the door to better therapies.

This adds to the evidence that mindfulness reduces symptoms and even helps keep them away. French participants assigned to an 18-month course did better than those who received English lessons instead of keeping their brains busy.

Corresponding author Dr Gael Chetelat, University of Caen-Normandie, said: “Meditation was superior to non-mother tongue training on changing an overall composite score and two of its sub-scores. scores reflecting attention regulation and socio-emotional abilities.”

People meditate in Miami Beach, Florida on August 3, 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Meditation may protect older people against Alzheimer’s disease, study finds.

They have been linked to well-being, suggesting that meditation improves mental health and “human flourishing”.

Dr Chetelat said: “The attention regulation subscore increased after meditation only.”

“In the context of meditation practices, this ability allows for heightened awareness and control of the content of experience without being absorbed in it.”

“Socio-emotional skills decreased significantly after non-native language training, suggesting that the observed difference may be due to skill maintenance through meditation.”

Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Richard Gere have touted the virtues of intense focus.

The study included 137 men and women divided into three groups. The meditation and English classes included weekly two-hour sessions.

They also practiced at home for at least 20 minutes a day. A control group continued to live their lives normally, without intervention.

Dr Chetelat said: “Meditation was superior to non-native language training on 18-month changes in an overall composite score capturing attention regulation, socio-emotional, and self-knowledge abilities.”

“The study results support the feasibility of meditation and non-native language training in older adults, with high adherence and very low attrition.”

Meditation has become increasingly popular in recent years. It has helped people quit smoking, cope with cancer, and even prevent psoriasis.

Dr Chetelat said: “Could meditation, a mental training approach to regulating attention and emotions, preserve brain structure and function in cognitively intact older adults? Future analyzes of the findings secondaries will determine which measures are most sensitive to meditation training and which factors are associated with responsiveness to intervention.”

A carer comes to the aid of an elderly resident – one of the establishment’s three Alzheimer’s patients – in a house in L’Hay-les-Roses on the outskirts of Paris on February 17, 2022. The study involved 137 men and women divided into three groups. The meditation and English classes included weekly two-hour sessions.
AFP via Getty Images/ALAIN JOCARD

Previous research has suggested it slows down the onset by helping people stay focused and boosting happiness. Staying “in the moment” has been part of philosophical and contemplative practices for thousands of years.

The hallmark of many forms of mental illness is a preoccupation with one’s own thoughts – a condition that meditation seems to affect.

Mindfulness meditation is thought to hold promise for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which causes intrusive thoughts and emotional numbness.

Dr Chetelat said: “Strategies to prevent dementia are urgently needed. Mental training that targets stress and attention regulation has the potential to improve cognitive and emotional aspects of aging.”

“Previous studies have shown that mindfulness meditation improves cognition, especially in older adults in several areas including attention, executive functions, and self-awareness or metacognition.”

“Mindfulness meditation can also reduce stress, anxiety and depression, including in older people.”

The number of dementia cases worldwide is expected to triple to more than 150 million by 2050. With no cure in sight, the focus is increasingly on protective lifestyle factors.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which combines meditation with orthodox ‘thought training’, is already recommended for depression in the UK and is available through the National Health Service.

Dr Chetelat said: “Meditation appears to be a promising approach to preserve brain structure and function as well as cognition and thus reduce the risk of dementia by directly targeting psycho-affective factors.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.

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