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Stress reduction through meditation may aid in slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease
Date:11/18/2013

functional MRI (fMRI) at baseline and then again after eight weeks to determine if there were any changes in the structures of the brain or in brain activity. The neuroimaging was conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital's Martinos Center.

"We were particularly interested in looking at the default mode network (DMN) the brain system that is engaged when people remember past events or envision the future, for example and the hippocampus the part of the brain responsible for emotions, learning and memory because the hippocampus is known to atrophy as people progress toward mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease," says Wells.

Previous studies have shown that the hippocampus is activated during meditation and that mediators have more hippocampal gray matter concentration. "So the big question is, is it possible for MBSR to help attenuate the decline of individuals already experiencing some memory problems?" asks Wells.

The results of fMRI imaging showed that the group engaged in MBSR had significantly improved functional connectivity in the areas of the default mode network. Additionally, as expected, both groups experienced atrophy of the hippocampus, but those who practiced MBSR experienced less atrophy.

Tests of memory were also done, but the study was not powered to see differences between the two groups, though, Wells and colleagues previously reported that, "most data suggest a trend toward improvement for measures of cognition and well-being."

"This is a small study and more research is needed to further investigate these results, but we're very excited about these findings because they suggest that MBSR may reduce hippocampal atrophy and improve functional connectivity in the same areas of the brain most affected by Alzheimer's disease. MBSR is a relatively simple intervention, with very little downside that may provide real promise for these individuals who have very few treatment options," say
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Contact: Kelly Lawman
klawman@bidmc.harvard.edu
617-667-7305
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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