Department of Epidemiology researcher to lead study on relaxation therapies

Dr. Kim Innes, associate professor of Epidemiology, West Virginia University School of Public Health has been awarded a 3 year grant from the Alzheimers Research and Prevention Foundation to investigate the possible benefits of 2 simple relaxation therapies for improving memory and related outcomes in adults with early memory loss.
In this pilot randomized controlled trial, researchers will extend the preliminary work to investigate the efficacy and feasibility of a 12 week beginner yogic meditation program vs. a 12 week music relaxation program for enhancing memory, sleep, and mood, reducing stress, and improving related indices of inflammation and cellular aging in 60 adults with early cognitive impairment.  If, as suggested by preliminary findings, simple relaxation therapy proves effective in improving memory, sleep, mood and related outcomes in adults with early memory loss, it may offer a novel, safe, and low cost approach to preventing or slowing cognitive decline in this population, help inform future studies regarding underlying mechanisms, and ultimately help reduce the significant health and economic burden associated with memory loss. 
Despite decades of research, effective therapies for preventing or slowing cognitive decline in older adults at risk for memory loss remain elusive. Chronic stress, sleep deficits, and mood disturbance are common in those with cognitive impairment and have been strongly linked to the development and progression of both chronic illness and memory loss. Relaxation therapies such as meditation that specifically target these and related risk factors may thus hold particular promise for slowing and possibly preventing cognitive decline in those at risk. Recent preliminary studies by the WVU group and others offer compelling evidence that a simple daily relaxation program may enhance memory, mood, and sleep; reduce stress; improve central nervous system function; and buffer the effects of inflammatory changes and cellular aging in those with or at risk for memory loss. However, rigorous studies are few.