Vital Care PT June 2018

H ow M editation H elps Y ou M aintain B rain H ealth IMPROVE COGNITIVE FUNCTI

Meditation has often been touted by New Age gurus as a way to find inner peace and stillness. But what if meditating could reduce the effects of aging on your brain? According to research, taking a few minutes out of your day to meditate may improve cognitive function. As meditation’s popularity has spread, so have studies of the practice. The results of 100 studies examining the cognitive effects of meditation all show evidence of improvements in psychological and cognitive functions. Some of the results are intuitive, such as how meditation helps us deal with stress. But other results are incontrovertible, such as scans showing that meditation causes structural changes in the brain. For people facing age-related changes like memory loss, the results of these tests are especially relevant. The studies point to evidence that meditation can strengthen certain areas of the brain — the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus, and the amygdala — that weaken as we age.

may reduce this age-related thinning. Dr. Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist specializing in the effects of yoga and meditation on cognitive and behavioral function, reports that long-time meditators don’t show a decline in the thickness of the prefrontal cortex.


Your hippocampus helps you process and form new memories, and it’s very sensitive to stress. In fact, research shows that your hippocampus will shrink in response to stressful situations and chronic stress. The remedy? Meditation. Dr. Lazar’s study showed a positive correlation between meditation and a higher concentration of gray matter in the left hippocampus.


Often called the fear center of the brain, the amygdala is triggered by stressful situations. But unlike the hippocampus, which shrinks in response to stress, the amygdala has been shown to become denser.


Your prefrontal cortex thins with age, which is associated with decreased cognitive function in your later years. However, meditation

In one study, people who attended mindfulness meditation classes showed a smaller stress response in brain scans compared to those

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“When I arrived for PT, I could not sit for long periods of time. My backside was stiff and sore, and I could not bend over very far. I would wake up with pain and soreness in my lower back and bottom. Thanks to Andrea and Abby for giving me the tools (exercises) to do at home plus the exersises done at PT. I now can function 90

percent better with everyday life. Their help, patience, and the time they took to answer any of my questions is much appreciated. Thanks!” -Eileen B. “I had about 14 appointments at Vital Care

recently for weakness in my hips and legs as a result of a fall. I was walking with a cane with difficulty, and at my age of 89, I didn’t think there was much hope for improvement. It took some time, but after working with Michelle and the other staff members, I improved beyond my expectations, can walk without the

cane, and feel more confident with daily activities. I now have a set of exercises I can do at home to keep me fit. I have been treated by a number of physical therapy organizations in the area and have found Vital Care to be the best in my opinion.” -Lawrence R.

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