How does meditation improve memory?

There are good reasons for thinking meditation can help our memory

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

Meditation is a mental practice that involves focusing attention and awareness on the present moment while also acknowledging and accepting one’s thoughts and feelings. There is evidence to suggest that meditation can improve memory in a number of ways.

First, meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, which can have a negative impact on memory. Stress activates the body’s “fight or flight” response, releasing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can interfere with the hippocampus, a region of the brain that is important for memory formation and consolidation. Chronic stress can also lead to inflammation in the brain, which has been linked to memory decline. By reducing stress and anxiety through meditation, it may be possible to reduce the negative effects of stress on the hippocampus and other areas of the brain involved in memory.

Second, meditation has increased blood flow to the brain, particularly in areas associated with memory and learning, such as the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Increased blood flow to these regions may help to nourish and protect brain cells, potentially leading to improved memory function.

Third, meditation may improve memory by increasing focus and attention. Memory relies on the ability to encode and store new information, as well as retrieve it when needed. By training the mind to focus and pay attention to the present moment through meditation, it may be possible to improve memory by increasing the ability to encode and store new information more effectively.

Fourth, meditation may improve memory by increasing the brain’s capacity for plasticity, or the ability to change and adapt in response to new experiences. Some research suggests that meditation can stimulate the growth of new brain cells and connections, which may help to improve memory and cognitive function.

Finally, meditation may improve memory by increasing self-awareness and emotional regulation. Memory is not just about encoding and storing information but also about how that information is interpreted and how it affects us emotionally. By increasing self-awareness and the ability to regulate emotions through meditation, it may be possible to improve memory by allowing us to more effectively process and make sense of our experiences.

Overall, there is evidence to suggest that meditation can improve memory in a number of ways, including reducing stress and anxiety, increasing blood flow to the brain, improving focus and attention, increasing brain plasticity, and enhancing self-awareness and emotional regulation. While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms underlying these effects, it is clear that meditation can be a useful tool for improving memory and cognitive function.


Content proposed by AI, edited by a human.


Memory improvements possible from meditation in middle and old age

There are strong indications that meditation and mindfulness practice may have a positive impact on dementia and cognitive decline.

man hands waiting senior
Meditation appears able to help improve memory even in people suffering from cognitive decline?

Authors: Russell-Williams, J., Jaroudi, W., Perich, T., Hoscheidt, S., El Haj, M., & Moustafa, A. A.

Year: 2018

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

Summary: Mental health concerns linked to an ageing population include, Alzheimer’s disease (AD), dementia, mild cognitive impairment and subjective cognitive decline. We should say at the outset that when people are diagnosed with early-stage dementia, increased stress levels leading to poorer health more generally may follow close behind. This notion was reflected in the aims of this review.

There is evidence that meditation technologies can boost brain function and structure, but there is a lack of research investigating the benefits to populations already suffering from declining cognitive performance. This narrative review examined ten studies that explored the benefits of meditation on dementia-related memory conditions. The study looked across a range of scientific papers to identify trends and patterns. This should not be confused with experimental replication (the repetition of experiments to confirm scientific reliability).

The reviewed studies were seeking to understand if meditation could influence the cognitive performance, quality of life and perceived stress of people already experiencing different degrees of memory-related cognitive decline. The good news is that all of the studies demonstrated significant or ‘moving towards significant’ results. Collectively, these findings indicated that meditation could lead to

  • a reduction in cognitive decline
  • an increase in functional connectivity in the brain
  • a reduction in perceived stress
  • an increase in quality of life

The bottom line is that meditation appears able to improve brain function in people already suffering cognitive decline. Observed changes are likely to be linked to structural alterations in the brain. These positive developments can, in turn, lead to reduced levels of stress and improved quality of life.

“These preliminary findings offer causes for optimism in the treatment of cognitive decline. However caution must be expressed until results have been reliably replicated.”

Stephen Gene Morris


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