There has been a growth in meditation research around the globe in the past five years, including a handful of studies investigating the impact of meditation on adults living with mild cognitive impairment and family caregivers of adults with Alzheimer’s disease. These studies are of great interest to us at the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center as we consider the long-term impact of sustained stress on family caregivers and adults living with a diagnosis of dementia.
One recent study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical school revealed new insights into the minds’ powerful influence on regulating the nervous system through simple meditation practices. The study, , indicated changes in the physical structure of the brain, through brain imaging, after only a few short weeks of simple meditation practice.
Brain imaging, like functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI, is giving us new insights into meditation practices that have long been recognized to improve mood and sleep, reduce pain and enhance stress resilience, to name a few. The brain imaging results show evidence of neural growth and an increase in grey matter in the brain, the matter that gathers information and passes along sensory information.
Research outcomes are also demonstrating how brief meditation may continue to soften perceived stress and the experience of pain even while someone is not meditating. There is reason to believe that mediation can have a long-term impact on emotional and cognitive wellness.
We are not the first University of Michigan department to implement meditation practice and mindfulness based programming, but we are excited to be the first in the State of Michigan to offer Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) as an intervention for dementia care and caregiver wellbeing.
Aware Care, an 8-week MBSR course, will be offered this fall for caregivers of an adult living with a dementia as well as adults diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment. For information, please call U-M Memory Connection at 734-936-8803 or visit our website.
The Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center (MADC) was established at the University of Michigan Health System, through affiliation with the Department of Neurology and aims to conduct and promote research on Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders; ensure state-of-the-art care for individuals experiencing cognitive impairment or dementia; and enhance the public’s and health professionals’ understanding of dementia through education and outreach efforts. The infrastructure of the Center stems from a 20 year history as an NIH-funded Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.
For more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including a #1 ranking in Michigan and national rankings in many specialty areas by U.S. News & World Report.