We already know that listening to music has some incredible health benefits, from relaxing blood vessels to dampening appetite to sharpening mental focus. Now new findings, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, suggest that listening to music—along with meditation—can help boost memory, among other benefits, for older adults with preclinical memory loss.
The study, conducted by researchers from West Virginia University, looked at 60 older adults with subjective cognitive decline, a strong predictor of Alzheimer’s disease (here are some of the earliest signs). Participants were assigned to one of two mind-body practices—either a beginner meditation (Kirtan Kriya) or music-listening program—and were asked to practice 12 minutes a day for 12 weeks. At the end of the study period, both groups showed marked and significant improvements in subjective memory function and objective cognitive performance. Their improvements were in areas of cognitive functioning that are most likely to be affected in preclinical and early stages of dementia—including attention, executive function, processing speed, and subjective memory function, according to the study’s findings. And participants only continued to improve for the following three months, when they were practicing their mind-body techniques at their own discretion.
The findings of this study, as reported in sciencedaily.com, suggest that these two simple mind-body practices, Kirtan Kriya meditation and music listening, may not only improve mood, sleep, and quality of life—as the researchers demonstrated in earlier studies—but also boost cognition and help reverse perceived memory loss in older adults with subjective cognitive decline. Here are more strategies to soup up your memory.
Other research supports the link between meditation and improved memory. In a study at the University of California at Santa Barbara, undergraduate students were asked to take either a mindfulness class or a nutrition class for two weeks. Students who did the “mindfulness training,” which emphasized physical posture and mental strategies of focused-attention meditation, performed better on standardized tests and tests of working memory and mind-wandering than those who learned about nutrition, according to the Atlantic.
Other research has set a precedent for music boosting brain power. “Your brain lights up like a Christmas tree when you listen to music,” neurologic music therapist Kimberly Sena Moore told webmd.com. “Music is really such a complex stimulus…and you can use it in an intentional way for general wellness.”
The jury is still on the type of music that really gets those neurons firing, so in the meantime, just listen to your favorite tunes whenever you can, and consider starting a meditation practice. How about now? Here are some mini meditations to get you started.