An interesting study called Meditation and Music Improve Memory and Cognitive Function in Adults with Subjective Cognitive Decline: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial looked at mind-body therapy for people with mild perceived memory loss. The subjects were people who have not become disabled by cognitive loss, but have complaints about their memory, often a harbinger of future problems. The study randomized subjects to either Kirtan Kriya meditation or music listening for 12 minutes per day for 3 months. Compared with baseline, the participants in both activities showed improvements in overall cognition and in short term memory at the end of the 3 month intervention. The effect even remained when the subjects were tested 3 months after that. Areas of improvement included better subjective memory and objective improvement in attention, processing speed and executive skills or problem solving.
The authors put forth some theories about how the interventions work. One possibility is that meditation or music listening may exert benefit by improving subjects overall sense of well-being. Subjects reported better mood, sleep, and quality of life and less stress. The distress that comes from perceived memory loss in itself produces worse cognitive performance and so the cycle feeds itself. The worse you feel about your memory failure, the worse your memory failure then becomes. It seems that maybe music exposure or meditation may help to break up this cycle.
Another theory of benefit is the understanding that music listening or meditation can actually help improve the chemical balance in the brain and improve autonomic nervous system function, all of which is beneficial to cognitive performance. Authors also review data from other studies that show that these interventions can result in other incredible changes in the brain including reducing inflammation, promoting maintenance of chromosomes and altering gene functions that are associated with development of Alzheimer’s disease.
I was curious so I emailed the author of the study to find out what music was prescribed. It was 12 minute selections of relaxing classical music by 6 different composers: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Debussy and Pachelbel. Subjects had to sample all 6 at least once but could otherwise listen to whatever one they wanted.
So pick your preference, meditation or music (or both) and make it a regular habit. Based on this research it could help for forgetfulness and be good for overall well-being for anyone.