A three-month course in Yoga and meditation, particularly age-old Indian practice of Kirtan, may help boost memory and fight Alzheimer’s disease, American scientists have said.
A team of US neuroscientist from University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found that Yoga and meditation practice helped minimise cognitive and emotional problems that often precede Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
The researchers also found that it was even more effective than the memory enhancement exercises that have been considered the gold standard for managing mild cognitive impairment.
The study, funded by Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, was published in the latest issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
“Memory training was comparable to Yoga with meditation in terms of improving memory, but yoga provided a broader benefit than memory training because it also helped with mood, anxiety and coping skills,” said Helen Lavretsky, the study’s senior author and a professor in residence in UCLA’s department of psychiatry.
The experiment was carried out on 25 participants, all aged over 55 years.
“Clinical research has shown that practicing Kirtan Kriya for just 12 minutes a day can improve cognition and activate parts of the brain that are central to memory,” according to Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation.
“Replacing the Kirtan Kriya sounds with other sounds, or replacing the meditation as a whole with other relaxing tasks, has not been shown to be effective,” the foundation said.
The three months of yoga and meditation resulted in changes in their behavior and brain activity.
“Historically and anecdotally, Yoga has been thought to be beneficial in aging well, but this is the scientific demonstration of that benefit,” said Harris Eyre, the study’s lead author, a doctoral candidate at Australia’s University of Adelaide and a former Fulbright scholar at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.
“We’re converting historical wisdom into the high level of evidence required for doctors to recommend therapy to their patients,” Eyre said.
The university said as part of the research while 11 participants received one-hour-a-week of memory enhancement training and spent 20 minutes a day performing memory exercises, another 14 took a one-hour class once a week in Kundalini Yoga and practiced Kirtan Kriya meditation at home for 20 minutes each day.
Kirtan Kriya, which involves chanting, hand movements and visualisation of light, has been practiced for hundreds of years in India as a way to prevent cognitive decline in older adults, Lavretsky said.
“After 12 weeks, the researchers saw similar improvements among participants in both groups in verbal memory skills — which come into play for remembering names and lists of words,” the university statement said.
“But those who had practiced yoga and meditation had better improvements than the other subjects in visual–spatial memory skills, which come into play for recalling locations and navigating while walking or driving,” it added.