Prevention of dementia in seniors: meditation under study

And if it was enough to meditate a little to age better? In any case, this is the track explored by a very recent study, to be published soon in the very serious journal “Jama Neurology”. She looks at the benefits of meditation for seniors.

As part of this program called Medit-Ageing, researchers from Inserm and the University of Caen Normandy have studied meditation. And this as a tool for preventing dementia and improving mental health.

Meditation in seniors: what significant impacts?

For this, they studied for 18 months more than 130 patients over 65 years of age, with no known pathology. These patients were divided into three groups. Objective: to compare the possible benefit of meditation in relation to different types of interventions. The first group attended a weekly two-hour course of mindful mediation. The second group, called “active control”, followed a period of learning English. The third group, called “passive control”, did not follow any intervention.

Their results show a positive impact on attentional and socio-emotional regulation capacities. “This means that we have succeeded in proving that, over a given time and with this number of patients, meditation makes it possible to prevent, for example, relapses of depression or improves social interactions”, explains Gaël Chételat, research director at Inserm in charge of the study. She specifies that these observations are self-assessed by the participants.

Meditation in seniors: what limits?

However, the Inserm study does not show any significant benefits of meditation on the volume and functioning of the cerebral structures studied. In this case, the insula and the cortex.

However, recent work has reported that the insula and the anterior cingulate cortex are regions of the brain that are specifically sensitive to meditation training. In young adults, meditation has already shown its ability to functionally modify these structures. Especially among those who are called “meditating experts”, who have several thousand hours of practice.


“Our study did not obtain significant results on this subject,” explains the research director. However, we know that the insula and the anterior cingulate cortex are especially sensitive to aging. One could therefore imagine, if the study “makes children”, that one manages to prove that meditation makes it possible to preserve cerebral structures and functions. “This will require working over a longer period of time and with more patients,” adds Gaël Chételat.

Hopes for better aging

Does this mean that we can, for the moment, advise meditation in the elderly to improve their mental well-being? “We lack data on meditation compared to physical activity, cognitive stimulation or even physical activity. But we can say that it can be beneficial in many aspects,” replies Gaël Chételat.

Nevertheless, it can be concluded that mental training targeting the regulation of stress and attention – such as mindfulness meditation, for example – has proven to be a beneficial tool in managing the cognitive and emotional aspects specific to aging.

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Prevention of dementia in seniors: meditation under study

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