Many of us fear losing our memory and healthy brain function.
Whenever I misplace my car keys or forget my online banking password, I get the fleeting thought of “oh, no, is this a sign?”
Meditation is one way that I calm such fears, but I may be helping my memory in the process too.
One of the newest directions of Alzheimer’s Disease research involves meditation as a possible approach for improving memory.
I recently read about early pilot studies using meditation to change the brain and possibly improve memory. This particular experiment was based upon Kirtan Kriya, a type of Kundalini yoga.
Kirtan Kriya is a type of meditation that brings together repetitive chanting with finger movements.
The chanting uses sounds Saa, Taa, Naa, and Maa…first singing them, then whispering them, repeating the sounds silently, and finally reversing the sequence. Each sound also has a corresponding finger movement (e.g. ring finger touching thumb). This entire meditation sequence is done in 12 minutes.
The first study using Kirtan Kriya meditation to improve memory was an open-label (both researchers and participants know which treatment is being administered) pilot study published in 2010 in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Andrew Newberg, MD and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania took 15 people (ages 52-77) with memory loss and had them practice Kirtan Kriya for 12 minutes a day for 8 weeks. They had a small control group who listened to Mozart violin concertos for the same amount of time.
Compared to the control group, the meditation group showed improved cerebral blood flow (to the frontal lobe regions and the right superior parietal lobe), had statistically significant improvements in a neuropsychological test measuring cognition, as well as improvements in three other cognitive tests that measured general memory, attention and cognition.
Since then, a number of other studies have involved Kirtan Kriya meditation – I’ll tell you about another exciting one in a little while.
But before I close, I need to say again, these studies are preliminary, small, and aren’t well controlled or randomized, so we can’t necessarily draw strong conclusions from them.
But they are interesting to ponder.
We are just learning the ramifications of our activities on neuroplasticity in the brain. From year to year, brand new pieces of the puzzle are being revealed, which is why it’s crucial to stay on top of new research findings.
We created the Brain Science Webinar Series in order to help you keep up-to-date on these findings and the clinical applications they offer.
Have you ever used meditation to change the brain? Please leave a comment.