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Music Listening, Meditation and Brain Fitness

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Older adults may be able to enhance memory and brain fitness by meditating or listening to music, according to preliminary research findings reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (2017; 56 [3], 899–916). West Virginia University researchers in Morgantown, West Virginia, conducted the study to determine whether simple mind-body practices could boost cognition or improve perceived memory loss among older adults with cognitive decline.

The pilot study involved 60 independently living adults aged 50–84 with subjective cognitive decline, a condition that may represent preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. Investigators randomly assigned the participants to either a beginner meditation group or a music listening group. All group members practiced 12 minutes daily for 12 weeks. By the end of the intervention, all participants had shown significant improvement in subjective memory and objective cognitive performance. At 3- and 6-month follow-ups, the subjects had maintained or even increased these gains. (Only 53 participants took part in the 6-month follow-up.)

More research is needed to explore potential mechanisms of action and determine the long-term effects on cognitive health of either meditating or listening to music.

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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