Mindfulness and meditation: treating cognitive impairment and reducing stress in dementia

Rev Neurosci. 2018 Sep 25;29(7):791-804. doi: 10.1515/revneuro-2017-0066.


This study investigates the relationship between mindfulness, meditation, cognition and stress in people with Alzheimer's disease (AD), dementia, mild cognitive impairment and subjective cognitive decline. Accordingly, we explore how the use of meditation as a behavioural intervention can reduce stress and enhance cognition, which in turn ameliorates some dementia symptoms. A narrative review of the literature was conducted with any studies using meditation as an intervention for dementia or dementia-related memory conditions meeting inclusion criteria. Studies where moving meditation was the main intervention were excluded due to the possible confounding of exercise. Ten papers were identified and reviewed. There was a broad use of measures across all studies, with cognitive assessment, quality of life and perceived stress being the most common. Three studies used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure functional changes to brain regions during meditation. The interventions fell into the following three categories: mindfulness, most commonly mindfulness-based stress reduction (six studies); Kirtan Kriya meditation (three studies); and mindfulness-based Alzheimer's stimulation (one study). Three of these studies were randomised controlled trials. All studies reported significant findings or trends towards significance in a broad range of measures, including a reduction of cognitive decline, reduction in perceived stress, increase in quality of life, as well as increases in functional connectivity, percent volume brain change and cerebral blood flow in areas of the cortex. Limitations and directions for future studies on meditation-based treatment for AD and stress management are suggested.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; dementia; mild cognitive impairment (MCI); mindfulness; neural studies; stress.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognition Disorders* / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders* / psychology
  • Cognition Disorders* / rehabilitation
  • Dementia / complications*
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Humans
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Negotiating / methods*
  • Stress, Psychological* / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological* / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological* / rehabilitation