One of the Silver Santé Study’s expert researchers and two participants from its SCD Well trial gave evidence to a committee at the UK Houses of Parliament on May 14.
Dr Antoine Lutz, of Inserm, who leads the Study’s meditation work package, presented the latest evidence in relation to meditation and its impact on healthy ageing to the Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group’s inquiry into ‘Mindfulness, Ageing Well and Older People’.
He was joined by two of the Study’s participants – Jack Forsey, of Buckhurst Hill in Essex, and Jenney Cleary, of Loughton, Essex – who talked about their own personal experiences of taking part in a mindfulness group as part of the Study’s SCD Well clinical trial.
Dr Lutz, a Research Director based in Lyon, France, said: “It was a privilege to be able to share the latest evidence on meditation and healthy ageing with the Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group at the House of Commons today.
“A pilot study published in 2017 showed potential for improving brain structure and function in later life – which is associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s – in a small group of expert meditators. If these results can be replicated in clinical trials with much larger cohorts it could be hugely beneficial to society in terms of improving mental health in later life.
“However, only a longitudinal clinical study in which participants are assessed before and after the intervention, such as the Silver Santé Study, will demonstrate that it is indeed the meditation intervention that is responsible for a positive impact on the brain.”
The Silver Santé Study, which began in January 2016, is running two clinical trials investigating mental health and well-being in later life, including Alzheimer’s disease and its mechanisms. The Study’s first trial, called SCD-Well, is assessing the effects of short-term meditation and health education interventions on behavioural measures. It includes 147 participants with some level of subjective cognitive decline who were recruited from memory clinics in France, Germany, Spain and the UK, with blood tests and questionnaires used to assess the impact of the interventions on cognition and well-being. The results of this trial, which is led by Dr Natalie Marchant of University College London (UCL), are currently being analysed and are due to be released later this year.
In the second trial, Age-Well, 137 healthy older adults aged 65+ in the Caen region of France have been randomly assigned to one of three groups – meditation, English learning or a control group in which participants have made no changes to their lifestyles. The 18 month interventions are the longest ever for meditation and language learning and the effects are being assessed through both behavioural and biological measures. These include blood sample analyses, questionnaires, cognitive tests, sleep assessment, neuroimaging data and lifestyle factors. Changes are measured between baseline readings and those at 18 and 21 months. A group of senior expert meditators has also been included in the study. The results of the Age-Well trial, led by the project’s Coordinator, Dr Gaël Chételat, are expected in 2020.
Dr Lutz was joined at today’s meeting by Harriet Demnitz-King, a Phd student working on the SCD-Well trial at UCL under the supervision of Dr Natalie Marchant, and Dr Thorsten Barnhofer, of the University of Exeter, who helped develop the Study’s meditation interventions.
Dr Lutz added: “I am grateful to the Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group for giving the Silver Santé Study the opportunity to take part in their inquiry and we look forward to seeing the Group’s policy recommendations in due course.”
For further information about the Mindfulness APPG and to listen to an audio recording of the event visit https://www.themindfulnessinitiative.org/news/mappg-mindfulness-ageing-well-and-older-people