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Mindfulness lowers inflammation in cognitively impaired older adults

Posted 02.12.2020 | by AMRA

Approximately half of older adults diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) eventually progress to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. A diagnosis of MCI may provide a window of opportunity to slow, halt, or reverse further cognitive decline, and researchers are interested in novel interventions to help maintain cognitive functioning.

Mindfulness-based interventions may offer a means to potentially preserve cognitive function by lowering stress and inflammation and promoting neuroplasticity. Inflammation is associated with cognitive impairment, the arterial changes associated with vascular dementia, and the inter-neuronal plaque formation associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Ng et al. [Translational Psychiatry] conducted a randomized controlled pilot study investigating the effects of a mindfulness-based program on biomarkers of stress, inflammation, and neuroplasticity in older adults with MCI.

The researchers randomly assigned 55 older adults (average age = 71 years; 75% Female; 98% Singaporean Chinese) with MCI to Mindful Awareness Practice (MAP) or a health education control group. For the first three months, MAP and control participants attended 12, weekly, 1-hour sessions. For the subsequent 6-months, they attended once monthly 1 hour booster sessions.

MAP was modelled after Mindfulness-Based Elder Care, an adaptation of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for older adults with impairments in attention-span and difficulty in following instructions. The mindfulness program included mindful breathing, sensory mindfulness, body scanning, and mindful movement components.

The health education control covered topics such as sleep, diet, exercise, grief, stress, social support, and the management of common chronic diseases associated with aging.

Participants provided blood and saliva sample at baseline, 3 months, and 9 months. Researchers obtained blood biomarkers of inflammation (C-reactive protein, IL-6 and IL-1β), saliva biomarkers of stress (cortisol and DHEA-S), and a blood biomarker of neuroplasticity (BDNF, a protein […]

February 12th, 2020|News|

Cognitively impaired older adults improve memory with mindfulness

Posted 01.22.2020 | by AMRA

A diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) represents a degree of cognitive decline greater than what one might expect from normal aging but not severe enough to call for a diagnosis of dementia. While older adults with MCI show mild memory and word-finding difficulties, they remain capable of independent living. Nevertheless, they are at an increased risk for developing dementia, and clinicians are interested in developing ways to delay or prevent the onset or progression of dementia. MCI symptoms are often accompanied by decreased structural and functional brain connectivity, as diverse regions of the brain show greater difficulty in cross-communicating information and coordinating activity.

Prior research suggests that mindfulness practice enhances aspects of structural and functional brain connectivity in healthy adults. Fam et al. [Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences] examined whether mindfulness practice can also improve dynamic functional connectivity (changing patterns of functional connectivity over time) in older adults with MCI.

The researchers randomly assigned 47 meditation-naïve older adults (average age = 72 years; 72% female; 97% Chinese) diagnosed with MCI to a mindfulness awareness program or an active control. Mindfulness participants attended a series 12 weekly 40-minute group mindfulness training sessions and were encouraged to engage in daily home practice.

Control group participants attended a series of 12 weekly 40-minute talks on health-related topics including diet, sleep, exercise, and personal safety. Four mindfulness participants and 7 controls failed to complete the study, leaving a final analytic sample of 36 participants.

All participants underwent resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) at baseline and three months later. Measures of the efficiency of brain information transmission were calculated. Higher efficiency is indicative of a shorter transmission time between disparate […]

January 22nd, 2020|News|

New blood marker of Alzheimer’s disease improved by MBSR

Posted 07.19.2017 | by AMRA

Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive brain disease affecting some five million older Americans. Given the profound personal, social, and economic costs of this disease, scientists are seeking ways to prevent its occurrence and progression. One avenue of investigation involves a protein called Repressor Element 1-Silencing Transcription Factor or REST. REST plays an important role in helping developing cells differentiate as neurons and protects aging brain cells from stress and toxicity.

People with Alzheimer’s have low REST levels, while older adults who retain their cognitive function well into their 90s and 100s have high REST levels. Also, older adults who show neurological changes typical of Alzheimer’s do not progress to show behavioral signs of the disease if their REST levels remain high.

Can raising REST levels reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s? Ashton et al. [Translational Psychiatry] explored this question using a new method for measuring REST in blood plasma. First they investigated whether this new REST measure in blood could discriminate between different levels of Alzheimer’s risk. Second, they studied whether Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) improved REST levels in a population at risk for potentially developing Alzheimer’s.

The first study compared plasma REST levels in three groups of older (65 years or older) adults: 65 adults with Alzheimer’s, 65 adults with mild cognitive impairment, and 65 healthy adults. There was a significant difference between the Alzheimer’s group and both the healthy and mildly cognitively impaired groups. Mean REST levels were lowest for Alzheimer’s patients (112 pg mL-1) and highest for healthy controls (199 pg mL-1), with mildly cognitive impaired patients measuring in between (194 pg mL-1). Those mildly cognitive impaired who remained stable over time had higher […]

July 19th, 2017|News|

Older adult cognitive decline improves after mindfulness program

Posted 05.19.2016 | by AMRA


Older adults who complain of subjective cognitive decline (SCD) often appear normal in day-to-day functioning and on clinical assessment, but 60% of them eventually develop either mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s Disease. This makes older adults with SCD a prime target for interventions aimed at preventing or slowing cognitive decline.

Smart et al. [Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease] conducted a randomized controlled pilot study to test the effects of mindfulness training versus a psycho-educational control on measures of attention, brain structure and function, and self-reported cognitive complaints, mood, and mindfulness in adults with SCD.

A sample of 23 healthy older adults and 15 older adults with SCD (predominantly Caucasian men and women, average age = 70) were randomly assigned to either an 8-week mindfulness training based on MBSR that was tailored for older adults, or a 5-week program that provided education on memory and aging, situational factors that affect memory, and strategies to compensate for memory difficulties. Participants completed self-report measures of memory complaints, depression, and mindfulness (the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire, or FFMQ).

They also completed an attentional capacity task that required them to be vigilant and respond or withhold responding to letters presented on a computer screen. An electroencephalogram (EEG) recorded the magnitude of their brain’s P3 evoked response potentials (ERPs) while performing this task. Higher P3 ERPs reflect increased attentional capacity and are known to decrease in amplitude with SCD. All these measures were obtained both before and after intervention. Structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was also included to detect changes in total brain volume from pre- to post- intervention.

Adults with SCD reported a greater number of subjective memory complaints and had a […]

May 19th, 2016|News|

Adding mindfulness to meds helps Alzheimer’s patients

Posted 01.22.2016 | by AMRA


Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive neurodegenerative illness characterized by short-term memory loss, disorientation, and impairments in socialization, self-care and behavioral regulation. It is primarily a disease of old age and affects over 5,000,000 Americans. Medications are often prescribed to manage its symptoms, but no medication has been shown to halt or delay the progression of the disease.

Given the enormous personal, social, and economic consequences of this illness, researchers are actively seeking novel ways to slow and forestall its devastating effects.

In a randomized clinical trial, Quintana-Hernández et al. [Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease] compared the effectiveness of a Mindfulness-Based Alzheimer’s Stimulation (MBAS) program in maintaining cognitive functioning in Alzheimer’s patients to that of two current non-pharmacological interventions for Alzheimer’s disease; namely, Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) and Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST).

The researchers randomly assigned 168 Spanish-speaking men and women with Alzheimer’s Disease who were Canary Islands residents to one of four treatment groups: 1) Medication Alone, 2) MBAS+Medication, 3) PMR+Medication, or 4) CST+Medication. The medication was donepezil, a cholinesterase inhibitor that has a small beneficial effect on cognition in Alzheimer’s patients but does not slow or halt the progression of the disease.

All of the non-pharmacological treatments were delivered three times weekly in 90-minute group sessions that continued over a two-year period.

MBAS was based on MBSR, Mindfulness-Based Elder Care, Kirtan Kriya technique, chair yoga, and multi-sensory stimulation. The MBAS patients’ caretakers also assisted the patients in brief moments of mindfulness during home practice.

The CST group employed visual imagery, errorless learning, spaced retrieval, encoding specificity, and external memory aids. The PMR group employed a standard 16 muscle group tensing and releasing sequence. Patient cognition was longitudinally assessed […]

January 22nd, 2016|News|