Improve Psychological Well-Being in the Elderly with Mild Memory Loss with Meditation

Improve Psychological Well-Being in the Elderly with Mild Memory Loss with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the answers we’re looking for when it comes to ending memory loss could be gained by simply doing KK for 12 minutes each morning? Perhaps that magic bullet is already here, waiting to be discovered in each and every one of us after all. Now, wouldn’t that be grand?” – Dharma Singh Khalsa

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. It cannot be avoided. Our mental abilities may also decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem solving ability. These are called age related cognitive decline. This occurs to everyone as they age, but to varying degrees. Some deteriorate into a dementia, while others maintain high levels of cognitive capacity into very advanced ages. It is estimated that around 30% of the elderly show significant age related cognitive decline. These cognitive declines markedly increase the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. The declines occur along with sleep disruptions declines in mental health and quality of life, which in turn, appear to exacerbate the decline.

 

There is some hope, however, for those who are prone to deterioration as there is evidence that these cognitive declines can be slowed. For example, a healthy diet and a regular program of exercise can slow the physical decline of the body with aging. Also, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. Indeed, mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Meditation versus Music Listening on Perceived Stress, Mood, Sleep, and Quality of Life in Adults with Early Memory Loss: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5649740/ ), Innes and colleagues recruited community living adults over 50 years of age and experiencing memory problems and slight cognitive decline. They were randomly assigned to 12-week, 12 minutes per day, programs of classical music listening or Kirtan Kriya meditation, performed while sitting comfortably with eyes closed. At the first session the participants received 35-minute instruction on relaxation and their specific program and then provided DVDs for daily home practice. Kirtan Kriya meditation included signing a mantra, successive finger touching and visualization exercises. After the 12 weeks of practice participants were free to continue practicing if they wished. They were measured before and after the 12-week programs and 14 weeks later for body size, sleep quality, perceived stress, health-related quality of life, psychological well-being, mood, memory, and cognitive performance.

 

Retention and participation were high, with 92% of the music listening participants and 88% of the meditation participants completing the program. Participants completed 93% of the required session and 73% of the optional sessions during the second 14-week period. This indicates that the participants found the programs enjoyable and worth their time and effort.

 

Over the 12-week program, both groups showed significant improvements in sleep quality, perceived stress, health-related quality of life, psychological well-being, and mood. These improvements were either sustained or further improved over the subsequent 14 weeks. The meditation group had significantly greater improvements than the music listening group in perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, and mental health quality of life. In addition, the greater the improvements in mood, stress, sleep, well-being, and quality of life, the greater the improvements in memory function. Hence, the two forms of relaxation produced improvements in the participants well-being which were related to improvements in memory. But, meditation had a greater impact then music listening.

 

These results are quite remarkable that such simple practices for only 12 minutes per day can have such profound effects on the well-being of aging individuals with slight cognitive decline. This could potentially delay of lower the likelihood that the decline will continue into dementia of Alzheimer’s Disease. It is important that the effects were lasting and participation high, both of which suggest that the meditation program can be easily and inexpensively applied to large groups of community-based aging individuals.

 

So, improve psychological well-being in the elderly with mild memory loss with meditation

 

“Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can affect up to 20% of the population at any one time—and half of them will progress to full-on dementia. Now, a recent study . . .  finds as little as 15 minutes of daily meditation can significantly slow that progression.” – Nina Elias

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Innes, K. E., Selfe, T. K., Khalsa, D. S., & Kandati, S. (2016). Effects of Meditation versus Music Listening on Perceived Stress, Mood, Sleep, and Quality of Life in Adults with Early Memory Loss: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease : JAD, 52(4), 1277–1298. http://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-151106

 

Abstract

Background

Older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD) are at increased risk not only for Alzheimer’s disease, but for poor mental health, impaired sleep, and diminished quality of life (QOL), which in turn, contribute to further cognitive decline, highlighting the need for early intervention.

Objective

In this randomized controlled trial, we assessed the effects of two 12-week relaxation programs, Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KK) and music listening (ML), on perceived stress, sleep, mood, and health-related QOL in older adults with SCD.

Methods

Sixty community-dwelling older adults with SCD were randomized to a KK or ML program and asked to practice 12 minutes daily for 12 weeks, then at their discretion for the following 3 months. At baseline, 12 weeks, and 26 weeks, perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, sleep quality, and health-related QOL were measured using well-validated instruments.

Results

Fifty-three participants (88%) completed the 6-month study. Participants in both groups showed significant improvement at 12 weeks in psychological well-being and in multiple domains of mood and sleep quality (p’s ≤ 0.05). Relative to ML, those assigned to KK showed greater gains in perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, and QOL-Mental Health (p’s ≤ 0.09). Observed gains were sustained or improved at 6 months, with both groups showing marked and significant improvement in all outcomes. Changes were unrelated to treatment expectancies.

Conclusions

Findings suggest that practice of a simple meditation or ML program may improve stress, mood, well-being, sleep, and QOL in adults with SCD, with benefits sustained at 6 months and gains that were particularly pronounced in the KK group.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5649740/

Improve Memory and Frontal Lobe Function in Older Adults with Mind-Body Practices

Improve Memory and Frontal Lobe Function in Older Adults with Mind-Body Practices

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Scientists . . . found increases in brain volume and improvements on tests of memory and thinking in Chinese seniors who practiced Tai Chi three times a week.” – Science Daily

 

The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity.  Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. Starting in the 20s there is a progressive decrease in the volume and activity of the brain as the years go by. Researchers have been able to investigate various techniques that might slow the process of neurodegeneration that accompanies normal aging. They’ve found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation, yoga and Tai Chi have all been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners. A practice, similar to Tai Chi, Baduanjin is a mind-body training consisted of 8 movements for limbs, body-trunk, and eye movements. But it has not been evaluated for application to aging individuals.

Because Tai Chi and Baduanjin are not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and are safe, having no appreciable side effects, they are appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin Mind-Body Training Changes Resting-State Low-Frequency Fluctuations in the Frontal Lobe of Older Adults: A Resting-State fMRI Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5670503/ ), Tao and colleagues recruited older sedentary adults (50 to 70 years of age) and randomly assigned them to either a no-treatment control who were provided health information or to practice either Tai Chi or Baduanjin mind-body training for 12 weeks, one hour per day, five days per week. Participants were measured before and after training for memory and cognitive functions. They also underwent functional-Magnetic Resonance Imaging (f-MRI).

 

They found that the Tai Chi and Baduanjin groups did not differ, but, in comparison to baseline and the education control group they had significant (18%-24%) increases in memory performance after training. The brain scans demonstrated that, in comparison to the education control group the Baduanjin group had significant increases in activity in the low frequency range in the Medial Prefrontal Cortex while the Tai Chi group had significant increases in activity in the low frequency range in the Dorsal Lateral Prefrontal Cortex. Importantly, they found that the greater the increase in activity in the Prefrontal Areas the greater the improvement in memory.

 

Hence, the results showed that both mind-body practices of Tai Chi and Baduanjin improved memory in older adults in association with increases in Prefrontal Lobe activity. The Prefrontal cortex has been associated previously with memory, attention, and high-level thinking (executive function). The present results suggest that the mind-body practices of Tai Chi and Baduanjin act to improve memory in older adults by producing neuroplastic changes that increase activity in the brain’s Prefrontal Areas. Interestingly, the results also show that the two mind-body practices may act on different mechanisms in the brain; with Tai Chi acting on the medial areas of the Prefrontal Cortex while Baduanjin acting on the Dorsal Lateral areas.

 

Memory deteriorates with aging and this can progress to severe memory impairments and dementia. The results of this study suggest that engagement in the mind-body practices of Tai Chi and Baduanjin may be able to slow or prevent that decline by strengthening brain processing in the Prefrontal Cortex. Since both Tai Chi and Baduanjin are simple and safe exercises that can be easily learned and practiced at home alone or in groups, they are economical and scalable practices to improve memory during aging. As such, they should be recommended for older adults.

 

So, improve memory and frontal lobe function in older adults with mind-body practices.

 

“Because Tai Chi can be done indoors or out, and as a group activity or by yourself, it suits both people who like to work out alone at home and those who prefer to get their exercise in a social setting.” – Mark Huntsman

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Tao, J., Chen, X., Liu, J., Egorova, N., Xue, X., Liu, W., … Kong, J. (2017). Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin Mind-Body Training Changes Resting-State Low-Frequency Fluctuations in the Frontal Lobe of Older Adults: A Resting-State fMRI Study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, 514. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00514

 

Abstract

Age-related cognitive decline is a significant public health concern. Recently, non-pharmacological methods, such as physical activity and mental training practices, have emerged as promising low-cost methods to slow the progression of age-related memory decline. In this study, we investigated if Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) and Baduanjin modulated the fractional amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations (fALFF) in different frequency bands (low-frequency: 0.01–0.08 Hz; slow-5: 0.01–0.027 Hz; slow-4: 0.027–0.073 Hz) and improved memory function. Older adults were recruited for the randomized study. Participants in the TCC and Baduanjin groups received 12 weeks of training (1 h/day for 5 days/week). Participants in the control group received basic health education. Each subject participated in memory tests and fMRI scans at the beginning and end of the experiment. We found that compared to the control group: (1) TCC and Baduanjin groups demonstrated significant improvements in memory function; (2) TCC increased fALFF in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in the slow-5 and low-frequency bands; and (3) Baduanjin increased fALFF in the medial PFC in the slow-5 and low-frequency bands. This increase was positively associated with memory function improvement in the slow-5 and low-frequency bands across the TCC and Baduanjin groups. Our results suggest that TCC and Baduanjin may work through different brain mechanisms to prevent memory decline due to aging.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5670503/

Yoga Practice Improves Short-Term Memory

Yoga Practice Improves Short-Term Memory

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Participants in the yoga intervention group showed significant improvements in working memory capacity, which involves continually updating and manipulating information,” – Mark Prigg

 

Humans have both an amazing capacity to remember and a tremendously limited capacity depending upon which phase of the memory process. Our long-term store of information is virtually unlimited. On the other hand, short-term memory is extremely limited. This is called our working memory and it can contain only about 5 to 9 pieces of information at a time. This fact of a limited working memory store shapes a great deal about how we think, summarize, and categorize our world.

 

Memory ability is so important to everyday human functioning that it is important to study ways to maintain or improve it. Short-term, working, memory can be improved. Mindfulness has been shown to improve working memory capacity. Yoga practice has also been shown to have improve memory and reduce the decline in memory ability that occurs with aging. But, little is known about the components of working memory that are effected by mindfulness and yoga training. It is thus important to study the detailed effects of yoga practice on the components of short-term memory ability in humans.

 

In today’s Research News article “A yoga program for cognitive enhancement.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5544241/, Brunner and colleagues recruited college students and provided them with 6 60-minute yoga sessions either twice per week for 3 weeks or once per week for 6 weeks. The practice included meditation, poses, and relaxation. They were measured before and after yoga training for mindfulness, and working memory. They were tested for both forward and backward digit span tests, requiring them to remember sequences of numbers and repeat them back either in the order presented or in the reverse order. They were also tested with a letter and number sequencing tests, requiring them to remember unordered sequences of numbers or letters and repeat them back in numeric or alphabetical order.

 

They found that after yoga practice the students had significant increases in mindfulness and significant improvements in all memory tests including forward and backward digit span and letter and number sequencing. The forward digit span is a straightforward measure of short-term memory. On the other hand, the backward digit span and letter and number sequencing tasks require manipulation of the information contained in short-term memory; reordering it prior to recitation, and thereby test ability to work with material stored in short-term memory. Hence yoga practice appeared to improve mindfulness, short-term memory ability, and the ability to process material in short-term memory.

 

A potential alternative explanation for the results is a simple practice effect. The participants performed the tests twice, once before and once after yoga training. It is possible that they got better simply because the after test was the second time they’d performed the task. But, previous research has demonstrated that there is very little improvement in these tasks with practice, making this explanation less likely. But, there are other alternative explanations including placebo effects, experimenter bias effects, and attentional effects that could still explain the results rather than an effect of yoga training. A control group is needed in future research to conclusively demonstrate the effectiveness of yoga practice to enhance memory.

 

So, yoga practice may improve short-term memory.

 

The breathing and meditative exercises aim at calming the mind and body and keeping distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture or breath. Maybe these processes translate beyond yoga practice when you try to perform mental tasks or day-to-day activities.” – Neha Gotha

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Brunner, D., Abramovitch, A., & Etherton, J. (2017). A yoga program for cognitive enhancement. PLoS ONE, 12(8), e0182366. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0182366

 

Abstract

Background

Recent studies suggest that yoga practice may improve cognitive functioning. Although preliminary data indicate that yoga improves working memory (WM), high-resolution information about the type of WM subconstructs, namely maintenance and manipulation, is not available. Furthermore, the association between cognitive enhancement and improved mindfulness as a result of yoga practice requires empirical examination. The aim of the present study is to assess the impact of a brief yoga program on WM maintenance, WM manipulation and attentive mindfulness.

Methods

Measures of WM (Digit Span Forward, Backward, and Sequencing, and Letter-Number Sequencing) were administered prior to and following 6 sessions of yoga (N = 43). Additionally, the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale was administered to examine the potential impact of yoga practice on mindfulness, as well as the relationships among changes in WM and mindfulness.

Results

Analyses revealed significant improvement from pre- to post- training assessment on both maintenance WM (Digit Span Forward) and manipulation WM (Digit Span Backward and Letter-Number Sequencing). No change was found on Digit Span Sequencing. Improvement was also found on mindfulness scores. However, no correlation was observed between mindfulness and WM measures.

Conclusions

A 6-session yoga program was associated with improvement on manipulation and maintenance WM measures as well as enhanced mindfulness scores. Additional research is needed to understand the extent of yoga-related cognitive enhancement and mechanisms by which yoga may enhance cognition, ideally by utilizing randomized controlled trials and more comprehensive neuropsychological batteries.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5544241/

Reduce Mild Aging Cognitive Decline with Yogic Meditation

Reduce Mild Aging Cognitive Decline with Yogic Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The healthier and more active one’s lifestyle, the more likely he or she will maintain cognitive performance over time. And meditation may be a key ingredient for ensuring brain health and maintaining good mental performance.” – Grace Bullock

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our mental abilities which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. But, there is some hope for age related cognitive decline, as there is evidence that it can be slowed. There are some indications that physical and mental exercise can reduce the rate of cognitive decline and lower the chances of dementia. For example, contemplative practices such as meditationyoga, and Tai Chi and Qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve cognitive processes.

 

Yoga is a mindfulness practice that is safe and applicable to the elderly. So, it could potentially be an ideal practice for the slowing of age related cognitive decline. In today’s Research News article “A randomized controlled trial of Kundalini yoga in mild cognitive impairment.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5540331/, Eyre and colleagues recruited elderly (older than 55 years of age, average 68) with a mild degree of cognitive impairment and randomly assigned them to a 12 week, 60 minutes once a week, standard memory enhancement treatment or to yogic meditation practice, Kundalini Yoga. Daily homework was assigned. Kundalini Yoga includes meditation, breathing exercises, and mantra practice. The participants were measured before and after training and 12 weeks later for memory ability, executive function, resilience, physical and cognitive symptoms, neuropsychiatric symptoms, illness, apathy, and mood including depression.

 

They found that following training both the yoga and memory enhancement groups had significant improvements in memory and apathy and these improvements were still present 12 weeks after the end of training. In contrast, only the Kundalini Yoga group had significant improvements in depression, resilience, and executive function, including cognitive flexibility, response inhibition, and semantic fluency. Hence, both groups improved in memory and apathy, but only the Kundalini Yoga group also improved in mood, resilience, and higher-level thinking (cognitive function).

 

These are exciting findings suggesting the Kundalini Yoga is a safe and effective treatment that for age related declines in cognitive function, depression, apathy, and memory and improves stress resilience. It has been demonstrated that mindfulness training produces a wide variety of benefits for the elderly including mood, memory and cognitive improvements. So, Kundalini Yoga can be added to the list of effective mindfulness trainings for the elderly.

 

This was an excellent study as the comparison condition was the current “gold standard” of treatment for mild cognitive impairment in the elderly, memory enhancement training. Yet, Kundalini Yoga was significantly more beneficial. The improvement in stress resilience is important and may underlie some of the other benefits of the Kundalini Yoga training. Aging can produce considerable economic, physical, psychological, and social stresses. Improvement in the ability to withstand the effects of these stresses should be highly beneficial by decreasing the impact of these stresses on other aspects of physical and psychological functioning in the elderly.

 

So, reduce mild aging cognitive decline with yoga.

 

“Meditation could be a promising intervention in contrasting the negative effects of aging. Indeed, it has been shown to enhance cognitive efficiency in several domains, such as attention and executive functions.” Marco Sperduti

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Eyre, H. A., Siddarth, P., Acevedo, B., Van Dyk, K., Paholpak, P., Ercoli, L., … Lavretsky, H. (2017). A randomized controlled trial of Kundalini yoga in mild cognitive impairment. International Psychogeriatrics, 29(4), 557–567. http://doi.org/10.1017/S1041610216002155

 

Abstract

Background

Global population aging will result in increasing rates of cognitive decline and dementia. Thus, effective, low-cost, and low side-effect interventions for the treatment and prevention of cognitive decline are urgently needed. Our study is the first to investigate the effects of Kundalini yoga (KY) training on mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Methods

Older participants (≥55 years of age) with MCI were randomized to either a 12-week KY intervention or memory enhancement training (MET; gold-standard, active control). Cognitive (i.e. memory and executive functioning) and mood (i.e. depression, apathy, and resilience) assessments were administered at baseline, 12 weeks and 24 weeks.

Results

At baseline, 81 participants had no significant baseline group differences in clinical or demographic characteristics. At 12 weeks and 24 weeks, both KY and MET groups showed significant improvement in memory; however, only KY showed significant improvement in executive functioning. Only the KY group showed significant improvement in depressive symptoms and resilience at week 12.

Conclusion

KY group showed short- and long-term improvements in executive functioning as compared to MET, and broader effects on depressed mood and resilience. This observation should be confirmed in future clinical trials of yoga intervention for treatment and prevention of cognitive decline

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5540331/

Improve the Brain for Better memory in Aging with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yoga has been shown to reverse the aging process by the positive impact the practice has upon the body. It gives elasticity to your muscles, tones tendons and ligaments, reduces fat and slows weight gain, calms your heart rate, and eases your mind promoting a bodily as well as a spiritual peace.” – Amy Koller

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development, but regret their decreases during aging. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our mental abilities which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Using modern neuroimaging techniques, scientists have been able to view the changes that occur in the nervous system with aging. In addition, they have been able to investigate various techniques that might slow the process of neurodegeneration that accompanies normal aging. They’ve found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners.

 

There is some hope for age related cognitive decline, however, as there is evidence that they can be slowed. There are some indications that physical and mental exercise can reduce the rate of cognitive decline and lower the chances of dementia. For example, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve cognitive processes while gentle mindful exercises such as Tai Chi and Qigong have been shown to slow age related cognitive decline.

 

Since the global population of the elderly is increasing at unprecedented rates, it is imperative to investigate methods to slow physical and mental aging and mitigate its effects. It would seem reasonable to hypothesize that yoga practice, which is both a mindfulness practice and a physical exercise, might decrease age related cognitive decline and the associated changes in the nervous system. In today’s Research News article “Changes in Neural Connectivity and Memory Following a Yoga Intervention for Older Adults: A Pilot Study.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1335144686509454/?type=3&theater

or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4927889/

Eyre and colleagues recruited elderly, over 55 years of age, and randomly assigned them to either 12-weeks of yoga training or 12-weeks of memory enhancement training. Depression levels, and memory ability were assessed at baseline and at 12-weeks after the interventions. In addition, the participants’ brains were scanned before and after training with Functional Magnetic Imaging (f-MRI) to ascertain the connectivity of various brain systems.

 

They found that the yoga group had significant improvements in depression and visuospatial memory. But, there were no significant differences between the yoga and memory enhancement training groups. They also investigated the relationships of the memory changes with changes in connectivity within the brain’s Default Mode Network (DMN) and found that the greater the increases in connectivity, the greater the improvements in memory in the elderly. The Default Mode Network (DMN) is known to be involved in memory, in particular in episodic memory retrieval, prospective memory encoding, and autobiographical memory retrieval. So, it makes sense that its connectivity would be increased in parallel to memory enhancements.

 

These results suggest that both yoga and memory enhancement training improve the interactions (connectivity) between structures of the brain that are involved in memory processing and that this results in improved memory ability in the elderly. It is interesting that yoga increased DMN connectivity in this study as contemplative practices have been shown to decrease the size and activity of the DMN. This suggests that yoga practice either may act differently or that just the memory components of the DMN are enhanced. It will take further research to clarify this.

 

The present results make it clear that yoga practice helps to slow the cognitive decline that occurs with aging. But, yoga is known to have a myriad of other physical, psychological, and physical benefits. It appears to be an excellent practice to allow for healthy aging. So, improve the brain for better memory in aging with yoga.

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

“It is a known fact that yoga imparts more energy, strength and flexibility.  Some people turn to yoga for a reduction in stress, and then stick with it because it makes them feel, look, and remain young. Unlike traditional exercises, yoga blends moves that enhance circulation, flexibility, balance and strength, along with meditative techniques, including deep breathing. In fact, Yoga serves as a natural face-lift-it cleanes, relaxes, and restores. Yoga reduces signs of ageing considerably.” – Larry Payne

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Eyre, H. A., Acevedo, B., Yang, H., Siddarth, P., Van Dyk, K., Ercoli, L., … Lavretsky, H. (2016). Changes in Neural Connectivity and Memory Following a Yoga Intervention for Older Adults: A Pilot Study. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 52(2), 673–684. http://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-150653

 

Abstract

Background: No study has explored the effect of yoga on cognitive decline and resting-state functional connectivity.

Objectives: This study explored the relationship between performance on memory tests and resting-state functional connectivity before and after a yoga intervention versus active control for subjects with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Methods: Participants ( ≥ 55 y) with MCI were randomized to receive a yoga intervention or active “gold-standard” control (i.e., memory enhancement training (MET)) for 12 weeks. Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to map correlations between brain networks and memory performance changes over time. Default mode networks (DMN), language and superior parietal networks were chosen as networks of interest to analyze the association with changes in verbal and visuospatial memory performance.

Results: Fourteen yoga and 11 MET participants completed the study. The yoga group demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in depression and visuospatial memory. We observed improved verbal memory performance correlated with increased connectivity between the DMN and frontal medial cortex, pregenual anterior cingulate cortex, right middle frontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, and left lateral occipital cortex. Improved verbal memory performance positively correlated with increased connectivity between the language processing network and the left inferior frontal gyrus. Improved visuospatial memory performance correlated inversely with connectivity between the superior parietal network and the medial parietal cortex.

Conclusion: Yoga may be as effective as MET in improving functional connectivity in relation to verbal memory performance. These findings should be confirmed in larger prospective studies.

Keywords: Aging, cognitive decline, memory training, mild cognitive impairment, mind-body, older adults, subjective memory complaints, yoga

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4927889/

Improve Memory with Momentary Mindfulness

Mindfulness memory2 Brown

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Meditation directly affects the function and structure of the brain, changing it in ways that appear to increase attention span, sharpen focus, and improve memory.” – Walter Zimmerman

 

Memory is absolutely essential to human existence. Without it there is no learning. We would not be able to benefit from our past successes and failures. We’d be constantly “reinventing the wheel.” Fortunately, we do have the ability to store and remember information. This storage includes a variety of different types of information in our memories. One form, is a storage of events that occur in our lives, remembering them in great detail and in temporal order. For example, remember getting out of bed this morning and what you did up to the point of getting dressed. You might find that recalling these events involves reconstruction. That is, you put together the events using one event as a cue to the next one, perhaps filling in material from what you know already about your bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, etc. This is called episodic memory. We store almost an infinite amount of information about past events in this way.

 

A key to memory is storing the information. This involves attention. If you’re not paying attention to the events that are happening, you’ll never store the memory of them. Take for example driving while immersed in thought planning for the day and realizing that you don’t remember driving the last several miles. The episodic memory of what happened during that time was never stored as you were paying attention to something else. In other words, being in the present moment and paying attention to what’s going on is necessary for episodic memory storage. Since, mindfulness involves paying attention in the present moment, it would seem reasonable to expect that mindfulness would be associated with episodic memory, the greater the mindfulness, the better the storage and later recall of events.

 

Indeed, mindfulness has been found to be associated with memory ability. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Enhances Episodic Memory Performance: Evidence from a Multimethod Investigation.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1246307038726553/?type=3&theater

or below or view the full text of the study at:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4846034/

Brown and colleagues explored in depth the association of mindfulness with episodic memory in three studies. In the first they investigated the relationship between the overall mindfulness of college students and their episodic memory ability. The students were presented a sequence of 60 pictures of familiar objects and later asked to identify those that were presented from entirely new pictures. They found that the students’ overall mindfulness was not related to episodic memory ability, but their mindfulness state at the beginning of the test was, with higher mindfulness associated with better performance at the episodic memory task. Since, the immediate state of mindfulness and not the overall mindfulness was associated with memory, they concluded that a brief mindfulness induction would be sufficient to improve episodic memory.

 

In the second study, Brown and colleagues randomly assigned students to either receive a very brief (40 second) mindfulness instruction or an equally brief instruction on “putting first things first.” Both groups were then tested for episodic memory. They found the mindfulness instruction group were significantly superior at the episodic memory task. Because of the manipulation of mindfulness, the authors concluded that momentary mindfulness was the cause of the improved memory.

 

In a third experiment, they tested the students with a free recall task, remembering details from a read story. Again the mindfulness instruction improved memory demonstrating that the improvement in memory ability occurs with different types of episodic memory tasks. But, they also measured how interesting the task was for the students (intrinsic motivation) and found that the mindfulness instruction increased intrinsic motivation and this in turn improved memory. Hence, it appeared that inducing momentary mindfulness makes the task more interesting and this produces improved memory.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that momentary mindfulness may be effective in facilitating episodic memory storage but does so by increasing the level of interest in the task. So, if we’re mindful, and therefore we’re more interested in our driving, it’ll be less likely that the mind will wander and as a result tend to remember better the events that occurred during the drive. By improving intrinsic motivation momentary mindfulness improves episodic memory.

 

So, improve memory with momentary mindfulness.

 

Meditation requires sustained attention. Not only do participants have to focus their attention, but they also have to notice distractions. Then they must choose to ignore those distractions, redirecting their attention back to the current experience. In that way, the practice is closely related to the function of working memory. That’s because working memory requires holding on to thoughts and not letting other things distract from them.” – Jastrowski Mano

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Brown, K. W., Goodman, R. J., Ryan, R. M., & Anālayo, B. (2016). Mindfulness Enhances Episodic Memory Performance: Evidence from a Multimethod Investigation. PLoS ONE, 11(4), e0153309. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0153309

 

Abstract

Training in mindfulness, classically described as a receptive attentiveness to present events and experiences, has been shown to improve attention and working memory. Both are key to long-term memory formation, and the present three-study series used multiple methods to examine whether mindfulness would enhance episodic memory, a key form of long-term memory. In Study 1 (N = 143), a self-reported state of mindful attention predicted better recognition performance in the Remember-Know (R-K) paradigm. In Study 2 (N = 93), very brief training in a focused attention form of mindfulness also produced better recognition memory performance on the R-K task relative to a randomized, well-matched active control condition. Study 3 (N = 57) extended these findings by showing that relative to randomized active and inactive control conditions the effect of very brief mindfulness training generalized to free-recall memory performance. This study also found evidence for mediation of the mindfulness training—episodic memory relation by intrinsic motivation. These findings indicate that mindful attention can beneficially impact motivation and episodic memory, with potential implications for educational and occupational performance.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4846034/

Improve Memory with Yoga Nostril Breathing Techniques

Improve Memory with Yoga Nostril Breathing Techniques

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth.” – Sanskrit Proverb

 

Yoga practice is becoming increasingly popular in the west, for good reason. It has documented benefits for the individual’s psychological and physical health and well-being. It has also been shown to have cognitive benefits, improving memory. Yoga, however, consists of a number of components including, poses, breathing exercises, meditation, concentration, and philosophy/ethics.  So, it is difficult to determine which facet or combination of facets of yoga are responsible for which benefit. Hence, it is important to begin to test each component in isolation to determine its effects.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Left, Right and Alternate Nostril Breathing on Verbal and Spatial Memory.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1243792838977973/?type=3&theater

or below or view the full text of the study at:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4800515/

Garg and colleagues test the effects of yogic breathing, specifically, left or right or alternating nostril breathing on memory ability. They randomly assigned adult female participants to three groups, right nostril breathing, left nostril breathing, or alternating nostril breathing. They practiced their respective breathing technique for 45 minutes per day for one week. Their verbal and spatial memory ability was then tested for 3 consecutive days before and after yogic nostril breathing.

 

They found that both verbal and spatial memory scores were improved by all three forms of breathing, but left nostril breathing produced superior verbal memory scores. There are no data to provide an explanation for the mechanism by which these breathing techniques improve memory. It is possible that they improve oxygenation of the hemispheres. Since the left hemisphere is generally involved in verbal ability, increasing oxygen flow to the left hemisphere may specifically improve verbal memory. It should be mentioned that there were no control conditions conducted. It is possible that the results were produced not by the breathing technique but by subject expectancy (placebo) effects or experimenter bias. It is also possible that nostril breathing is generally activating and this improves memory scores. Had a normal breathing control condition been conducted, this alternative hypothesis could have been addressed.

 

Nevertheless, improve memory with yoga nostril breathing techniques.

 

“This breathing exercise helps sharpen your concentration and mental clarity when your mind is dull. Alternate nostril breathing provides equal oxygen amounts to both sides of your brain. It is a great exercise to do before an important exam or interview.” – Ripa Ajmera

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Garg, R., Malhotra, V., Tripathi, Y., & Agarawal, R. (2016). Effect of Left, Right and Alternate Nostril Breathing on Verbal and Spatial Memory. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research : JCDR, 10(2), CC01–CC03. http://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2016/12361.7197

 

Abstract

Introduction: Yoga has beneficial effects on memory. In females, left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for verbal memory and right hemisphere is responsible for the spatial memory, while the opposite is true for males.

Aim: Aim of the present was to study the effect of unilateral right nostril breathing, left nostril breathing and alternate nostril breathing on verbal and spatial memory scores.

Materials and Methods: A total of 51 female subjects (age 18-25 years, mean±SD =21.71±3.11) were taken and divided into three groups (n=17). Each group was imparted one of the three different types of nostril breathing practices such as Right Nostril Breathing (RNB), Left Nostril Breathing (LNB) and Alternate Nostril Breathing (ANB) for 1 week for 45 minutes daily. Subjects were given the memory test, before and after 45 minutes of intervention for three consecutive days. Memory tests were performed by using Wechsler Adult Intelligent Scale.

Statistical Analysis: Results were analysed by ANOVA with SPSS version 17.0.

Results: Results showed that there was increase in recall of digit span-forward, digit-span backward, associate learning and spatial memory scores with RNB, LNB and ANB, which were statistically highly significant(p<0.005).

Conclusion: Inclusion of nostril breathing in exercise regimen may be helpful in improving recall of memory.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4800515/

 

Improve Thought Executive Function with Mindfulness

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness training on focusing on the present moment may develop control of attention, or executive function. This enhances capacity for sustained attention, attention switching, and inhibition of elaborative processing, thereby increasing our mastery over the content of our thoughts and actions. . .  this amplifies our ability to self-regulate, allowing us to redirect our attention from rumination and depressogenic thoughts back to the experience of the present moment, thus decreasing negative affect and improving psychological health.” – Richard Chambers

 

Mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi/qigong have been shown to have a myriad of positive benefits for the practitioner and they have been shown to alter a large variety of cognitive (thought) processes, such as attentional ability, memory, verbal fluency, critical thinking, learning, analytic thinking, mathematical ability, higher level (meta-cognitive) thinking, and cognitive reappraisal. There have not, however, been direct comparisons made between the practices to establish which may be superior for the improvement of which cognitive processes. In order to optimize the effectiveness of mindfulness practices to improve thinking it is important to determine the effective components of each practice.

 

In today’s Research News article “What Confucius practiced is good for your mind: Examining the effect of a contemplative practice in Confucian tradition on executive functions.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1223639664326624/?type=3&theater

or see below

Teng and Lien compare the effectiveness of trainings for 4-weeks, twice a week for 90 minutes each, of mindful movements, or meditation, or a no treatment control. The mindful movement practice was termed Body-Mind Axial Awareness (BMAA) practice. It is very similar to tai chi except that the movements are not precisely choreographed and programmed. Chan meditation practice was used. It is very similar to Zen meditation and emphasizes breath following. They measured mindfulness, working memory ability, response inhibition (Stroop task), sustained attention and attentional switching ability.

They found that both the meditation and the mindful movement practices produced significant increases in mindfulness, in particular the observing and acting with awareness facets of mindfulness. They also found that the mindful movement practice produced a significant increase in working memory ability and sustained attention while the meditation training produced a significant increase in attentional switching ability. The groups did not differ in response inhibition ability. Hence, meditation practice appears to improve mindfulness and the ability to switch attention while the mindful movement practice improves mindfulness and working memory.

 

Increases in mindfulness, especially with the observing and acting with awareness facets, are routinely found with all mindfulness practices. So, these findings are not surprising and do not signal a difference between practices. The mindful movement practice requires continuous sustained attention in order to produce smooth movement sequences, so it makes sense that this practice would produce better sustained attention and therefore reduce mind wandering. This may, in turn, improve working memory ability as it improves sustained attention on the contents of memory, thereby reducing loss from working memory. It is possible that the training in focusing attention in the meditation practice that requires shifting attention back to the breath after mind wandering may be responsible for the improvements in attentional switching seen with meditation practice.

 

Although the equivalence of the mindful movement practice and the meditation practice was well maintained, one difference would be impossible to make equivalent and that is effects of the practice on the cardiovascular system. Mindful movement practice would be expected to raise heart rate, blood pressure, and metabolic rate while meditation would be expected to reduce them. In addition, the no treatment control is a weak control condition and a light exercise condition practiced over equivalent periods of time would be a much better comparison condition. So, for future research it might be useful to include a light exercise (e.g. walking) control condition.

 

Regardless improve thought executive function with mindfulness.

 

“training students in mindfulness techniques improves mental focus, increases academic performance, strengthens ability to emotionally regulate, and supports positive human qualities: kindness, empathy, compassion.” – Ready for School

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

 

Study Summary

Teng SC, Lien YW. What Confucius practiced is good for your mind: Examining the effect of a contemplative practice in Confucian tradition on executive functions. Conscious Cogn. 2016 Mar 30;42:204-215. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2016.03.016. [Epub ahead of print]

PMID: 27038245

 

Abstract

The short-term training effects on various executive functions (EFs) by a movement-based contemplative practice (MBCP) are examined. Three aspects of EFs (working memory capacity, inhibition, switching) are assessed before and after a month-long 12-h training period using Body-Mind Axial Awareness (BMAA) principles that Confucius followers have practiced for more than 2000years. A mindfulness-based practice (Chan-meditation) and a waiting-list control group served as contrast groups. Our results showed that the BMAA group performed better on the task that measured working memory capacity than did the Chan-meditation and the waiting-list groups after training. In addition, the Chan-meditation groups outperformed the control group on attentional switching, a novel finding for this kind of practice. Our findings not only show a new effect of short-term MBCPs on EFs, but also indicate movement-based and mindfulness-based contemplative practices might benefit development of various aspects of EFs in different ways.

 

Healthy Aging – Improve the Brain and Memory with Tai Chi

Healthy Aging – Improve the Brain and Memory with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Another great benefit of Tai Chi is that it’s accessible to people of all ages and fitness abilities. It’s the focus on the subtle movements that exercise the brain and boost cognitive abilities. First, it’s learning the precise movements of the ancient martial art form that will give your brain a boost. Then, it’s the continued focus linking the breath and the movements.” – Karl Romain

 

We all want to live longer. We celebrate the increasing longevity of the population. But, aging is a mixed blessing. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. It cannot be avoided. Our mental abilities may also decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem solving ability. These are called age related cognitive decline. This occurs to everyone as they age, but to varying degrees. Some deteriorate into a dementia, while others maintain high levels of cognitive capacity into very advanced ages. It is estimated that around 30% of the elderly show significant age related cognitive decline. But, remember that this also means that 70% of the elderly retain reasonable levels of cognitive ability. There is some hope, however, for those who are prone to deterioration as there is evidence that these cognitive declines can be slowed. For example, a healthy diet and a regular program of exercise can slow the physical decline of the body with aging. Also, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging.

 

Using modern neuroimaging techniques, scientists have been able to view the changes that occur in the nervous system with aging. In addition, they have been able to investigate various techniques that might slow the process of neurodegeneration that accompanies normal aging. They’ve found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners.

 

There are some indications that physical and mental exercise can reduce the rate of cognitive decline and lower the chances of dementia. Tai Chi and Baduanjin are ancient eastern practices involving slow mindful movements. They are both a gentle exercise and a contemplative practice that improves mindfulness. Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve cognitive processes while Tai Chi practice has been shown to slow age related cognitive decline. It would seem reasonable to hypothesize that Tai Chi and Baduanjin practices might decrease age related cognitive decline and the associated changes in the nervous system.

 

 

In today’s Research News article “Increased Hippocampus–Medial Prefrontal Cortex Resting-State Functional Connectivity and Memory Function after Tai Chi Chuan Practice in Elder Adults”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1212732788750645/?type=3&theater

or see below, or for full text see

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4754402/

Tao and colleagues investigated the effects of Tai Chi and Baduanjin practice on age related declines on memory and the neural systems involved in memory processes (Hippocampus and Medial Prefrontal Cortex). They randomly assigned 50-70 year-old participants to either Tai Chi practice, Baduanjin practice, or a no-practice control group. Both the Tai Chi and Baduanjin groups practiced one hour per day, 5-days per week, for 12 weeks.

 

They found that both Tai Chi and Baduanjin practice increased memory scores by about 25% while they were unchanged in the control group. They further found that both Tai Chi and Baduanjin practice increased the connectivity of the Hippocampus and Medial Prefrontal Cortex, indicating heightened communications between these memory related brain areas. In addition, the memory improvement was significantly positively associated with the increased connectivity, such that the greater the improvement in connectivity, the greater the improvement in memory. This is important in that it supports the conclusion that the changes in the brain are responsible for the improvements in memory.

 

It should be noted that the control group did not exercise. So, it cannot be determined if the improved memory and connectivity were due specifically to the mind-body aspects of Tai Chi and Baduanjin practices or due to the exercise provided by engaging in these gentle practices. It remains for future research to determine which aspect of the practices are responsible for the beneficial changes.

 

Regardless, the results are clear and exciting, Tai Chi and Baduanjin practice improves memory associated with improved connectivity between memory related brain areas in an aging population. In addition, Tai Chi and Baduanjin practices have the added benefit of being safe and gentle practices, with no known adverse effects. So, they are very appropriate for an aging population. Baduanjin practice does not involve the legs. So, it may be appropriate for aging groups who have difficulties with their hips, knees, ankles, fee, or legs. Finally, since they can be taught and practiced in groups and easily maintained at home, it is a very inexpensive intervention. This makes it almost ideal for aging individuals on fixed incomes.

 

So, improve the brain and memory with tai chi.

 

“Tai chi is often described as “meditation in motion,” but it might well be called “medication in motion.” There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems. And you can get started even if you aren’t in top shape or the best of health.”Harvard Women’s Health Watch

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

 

Study Summary

Tao, J., Liu, J., Egorova, N., Chen, X., Sun, S., Xue, X., … Kong, J. (2016). Increased Hippocampus–Medial Prefrontal Cortex Resting-State Functional Connectivity and Memory Function after Tai Chi Chuan Practice in Elder Adults. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 8, 25. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2016.00025

 

Abstract

Previous studies provide evidence that aging is associated with the decline of memory function and alterations in the hippocampal (HPC) function, including functional connectivity to the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). In this study, we investigated if longitudinal (12-week) Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin practice can improve memory function and modulate HPC resting-state functional connectivity (rs-FC). Memory function measurements and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) were applied at the beginning and the end of the experiment. The results showed that (1) the memory quotient (MQ) measured by the Wechsler Memory Scale-Chinese Revision significantly increased after Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin practice as compared with the control group, and no significant difference was observed in MQ between the Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin groups; (2) rs-FC between the bilateral hippocampus and mPFC significantly increased in the Tai Chi Chuan group compared to the control group (also in the Baduanjin group compared to the control group, albeit at a lower threshold), and no significant difference between the Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin groups was observed; (3) rs-FC increases between the bilateral hippocampus and mPFC were significantly associated with corresponding memory function improvement across all subjects. Similar results were observed using the left or right hippocampus as seeds. Our results suggest that both Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin may be effective exercises to prevent memory decline during aging.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4754402/

 

Help Cancer Survivor Memory with Yoga

 

“Up to 75% of cancer patients experience some form of cancer-related cognitive impairment (CRCI) during cancer treatments (eg, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, hormone therapy), and this impairment persists for months or up to 20 years in 20% to 35% of survivors.” – Janelsins, et al.

 

Cognitive impairments are a frequent side effect of cancer treatment. This has been dubbed “chemo brain.” Patients often refer to it as a mental cloudiness. The patients report problems including forgetting things, trouble concentrating, trouble remembering details like names and dates, trouble multi-tasking, like answering the phone while cooking, taking longer to finish things, disorganized and slower thinking, and trouble remembering common words. These cognitive impairments generally produce problems with work and even social relationships such that patients tend to isolate themselves. They can also produce treatment problems as the patients often forget to take their medications.

 

These problems result from the fact that chemotherapy, radiation therapy and many cancer drugs directly affect the nervous system. One of the potential intermediaries is sleep disruption as cancer treatments are known to produce sleep problems and lack of sleep is known to produce cognitive problems like those reported with “chemo brain.” At present there are no known treatments for these treatment induced cognitive impairments. Contemplative practices have been shown to affect memory (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/memory/), promote increased sleep quality (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/sleep/) and have positive effects on cancer treatment and recovery (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/cancer/).  So, perhaps contemplative practices may be useful for the alleviation of “chemo brain” symptoms.

 

Yoga has been shown to improve sleep quality in recovered cancer patients. So, it would seem to be a likely contemplative practice candidate for the treatment of the cognitive effects of cancer treatment. In today’s Research News article “YOCAS©® Yoga Reduces Self-reported Memory Difficulty in Cancer Survivors in a Nationwide Randomized Clinical Trial: Investigating Relationships Between Memory and Sleep”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1152258194798105/?type=3&theater

Janelsins and colleagues conducted a randomized clinical trial of the effect of a yoga practice program on the sleep and cognitive symptoms of recovered cancer patients. They randomly assigned the patients, 2 to 24 months after completing surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy, to either a yoga or a standard care group. The toga practice consisted of twice weekly 75-minute yoga sessions for four weeks. The study found that the yoga practice both reduced memory problems and sleep impairments. In addition, they showed that the sleep improvement was in part responsible for the yoga produced improvement in memory.

 

These results of this was a well conducted controlled trial are encouraging. Additionally, the yoga practice did not produce any adverse effects. So. the results suggest that yoga practice is a safe and effective treatment for the sleep and memory problems that accompany recovery from cancer. They further suggest that at least in part, the poor sleep quality in recovered cancer patients is responsible for some of the memory impairment and the sleep improvement produced by yoga may in part be responsible for some of the memory improvement seen in these patients.  Since, yoga has many other physical and psychological beneficial effects (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/contemplative-practice/yoga-contemplative-practice/), it would seem to be an almost ideal addition to the usual care that recovered cancer patients receive.

 

So, help cancer survivor memory with yoga.

 

“The worst days are when you feel foggy in the head – chemo-brain they call it. It’s awful because you feel boring. As well as bored. And stupid. And resigned.” – Christopher Hitchens

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies