Hyderabad

Meditation can help people overcome Alzheimer’s: IIIT-Hyderabd study

A file photo used for representational purpose only.  

Simple home-based meditation can change the brain structure and increase grey matter content in patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), reveals a study of the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad (IIITH).

The study which was carried out as part of DST’s Science and Technology of Yoga And Meditation (SATYAM) programme under its Cognitive Science Research Initiative saw Apollo Multispeciality Hospital, Kolkat, recruiting patients based on Neuro-psychological assessments and IIITH doing the image processing and analysis of the brain images.

The clinical team recruited patients with MCI or mild Alzheimer’s disease and assigned them into Meditation and Control groups. Before the start of the experimental period, both groups had MRI scans of their brain taken.

The Meditation group was taught to meditate at home for 30 minutes each day following audio instructions from a CD. When both groups had their brain images retaken after six months, the researchers found that the patients in the Meditation group showed a significant increase in cortical thickness and grey matter volume mainly in the prefrontal area of the brain. It also coincided with a reduced thickness in the posterior part of the brain, the researchers claimed in a paper published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

The researchers took three kinds of images - Structural MRI, Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) and Functional MRI. Structural MRIs focus on the anatomical properties of the brain, while functional images identify brain areas that correspond to a particular cognitive task. DTI is a promising MRI technique that reveals white matter formation in the brain.

With data collected at two time points – at the start of the therapy and at the end of the 6 months, the IIITH team looked at the brain structures as well as the cortical thickness from the structural MR images.

“We had suspected that if you practise focussed activity for a sustained period, there will be significant changes in the areas outside the DMN. Seeing this happen in the meditation group gives us confidence that this kind of intervention will be viable and useful for patients with memory disorders,” Dr. Bapi Raju of the Cognitive Science Research Centre at IIITH said. His students Madhukar Dwivedi and Aditya Jain Pansari were part of the study along with Dr. Amitabha Ghosh, Head of Department, Neurology at the Apollo Multispeciality Hospital and researcher Neha Dubey.

Dr. Amitabha Ghosh explains the results referring to the two kinds of networks that exist in the brain. One is activated by attention whereas the other takes over when there is no specific task to perform and during ‘mind wandering. Most individuals operate with a continuous switch between these two networks. “However, in patients with MCI or Alzheimer’s disease, where the networks degenerate, the switch does not always take place as efficiently. Hence, you find them losing attention, getting distracted and having memory lapses,” argues Dr. Amitabh.

Through meditation, one is taught to increase one’s focus and to consciously disengage from floating thoughts.

With the initial study showing promise on protection against memory loss with sustained and simple meditation practice, the team plans on following it up with a larger number of participants and over a longer duration period so that meditation as an intervention can be registered as a treatment method.


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Printable version | Jan 24, 2022 11:33:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/meditation-can-help-people-overcome-alzheimers-iiit-hyderabd-study/article37925055.ece

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