It’s pretty normal for memory to start to slip as we age even if it doesn’t turn into anything serious. But what’s interesting is that more and more research is showing that the choices we make every day can have a big effect on memory. Now, a study finds that both listening to music and meditating may help the memory and thinking problems that can come with age.
Sixty seniors who were experiencing subjective cognitive decline (SCD) — that is, they were aware they were beginning to have memory problems in their daily lives — took part in the study. The participants either listened to music for 12 minutes per day for 12 weeks, or practiced Kirtan Kriya meditation, a form of meditation that involves focused breathing techniques, singing or chanting, finger movements and visualization.
People in each group reported on their own memory and cognitive abilities, as well as other variables like mood and well-being, at the beginning and end of the three-month study period. They were also given tests in the lab to measure memory and cognition.
At the end of the study period people in both groups — those who meditated and those who listened to music — had improved memory function; and these gains persisted when the researchers followed up with them three months later.
Music has been shown to have many benefits, both physical and mental, and for all ages, from kids to the elderly. Meditation has certainly been shown to help reduce stress and improve mood, cognition and even increase brain volume.
Both memory and cognition improved in the current study, reversing some of the deficits the participants started out with. It’s possible that listening to music and practicing meditation earlier in life could actually prevent or delay age-related memory problems. That said, as with other healthy lifestyle practices (most notably, exercise), the sooner you start, the better.
The study was carried out at the University of West Virginia and is published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.