Mindfulness meditation may be beneficial for mild cognitive impairment

New research suggests that mindfulness meditation may be effective as a non-pharmacological treatment for adults clinically diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

According to a small pilot study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 14 participants of both genders, varying between age 55 and 90, were recruited to examine the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based stress-reduction (MBSR) program on adults living with MCI.

Mindfulness, a therapeutic approach used by clinical psychologists since the 1970s have shown to be beneficial for the treatment of various other psychological conditions. The approach involves non-judgemental attention to thoughts, feelings, sensations occurring in the present moment.

“While the concept of mindfulness meditation is simple, the practice itself requires complex cognitive processes, discipline and commitment. This study suggests that the cognitive impairment in MCI is not prohibitive of what is required to learn this new skill,” said Rebecca Erwin Wells, a neurologist and lead researcher of the study.

Previous research demonstrated that nine participants who took part in the MBSR program saw improvement in cognition and mental wellness, with evidence of beneficiary effects on the hippocampus and other areas of the brain linked to cognitive impairment.

The new findings provide more weight on previous research based on qualitative analysis of interview responses from MBSR participants following the eight-week course. “The participants’ comments and ratings showed that most of them were able to learn the key tenets of mindfulness, demonstrating that the memory impairment of MCI does not preclude learning such skills,” Wells explained.

“While the MBSR course was not developed or structured to directly address MCI, the qualitative interviews revealed new and important findings specific to MCI.”

The study was initially conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.