Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine are examining the effectiveness of meditation on early cognitive impairment. Once this new study is completed, the results could help answer lingering questions over whether or not stress-reducing techniques and mind exercises can lessen or even prevent cognitive decline. This is the first study at Penn's new "Center for Spirituality and the Mind," which evolved from work initiated in Penn's Department of Radiology to embrace and encourage researchers from the fields of medicine, pastoral care, religious studies, social work, nursing, and bioethics to expand our knowledge of how spirituality may affect the human brain.
"We'll be looking at patients with mild cognitive impairment or symptoms of early Alzheimer's disease," explains Andrew Newberg, MD, Associate Professor of Radiology, Psychiatry, and Religious Studies, who also directs the Center's investigations and is Principal Investigator of this pilot study. "We'll combine their meditation with brain imaging over a period of time to see if meditation improves cognitive function and is associated with actual change in the brain's activity levels. Specifically, we'll be looking for decreased activity in specific areas of the brain."
The dementia process causes a decreased function of neurons in the brain and can result in problems with memory, visual-spatial tasks, and handling emotional issues. As it worsens in a patient, it can also eventually lead to the need for round-the-clock care.
In this study, investigators want to look at the early symptoms of dementia. Study participants will learn a particular kind of meditation, called Kirtan Kriya, identified as one of the most fundamental types of meditation practice. It's a repeated chanting of sounds and finger movements designed to help the mind focus and become sharper. Study participants will perform this meditation program every day for eight weeks to see if this
Contact: Susanne Hartman
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine