(Université Caen Normandie, France)
Preserve your mental health to protect your brain : background, mechanisms and evidence
Depression stands as the second most significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease within aging populations. Collectively, anxiety, rumination, and depression, often accompanied by sleep disturbances and cognitive impairments, contribute to reduced mental health and overall well-being in aging individuals, elevating the susceptibility to degenerative diseases. Remarkably, even at preclinical stages, anxiety and depressive symptoms manifest structural brain changes, with variations contingent on factors such as sex, age, and clinical progression.
In the current era, marked by the emergence of non-pharmacological interventions and lifestyle modifications, meditation has emerged as a promising avenue to enhance mental health and well-being among aging populations while mitigating these adverse psychoaffective risk factors, including anxiety and depression. The Medit-Ageing model has been introduced to elucidate the underlying psychological mechanisms through which meditation exerts its influence on aging. This model delineates the specific meditation practices (mindfulness, loving-kindness, and compassion meditation), the cognitive processes involved (attention control, metacognitive monitoring, and the cultivation of prosocial capacities), as well as the pathways activated (downregulation of negative automatic thought patterns and upregulation of positive automatic thought patterns), collectively contributing to a positive impact on the aging process. Moving beyond theoretical concepts, we will present the preliminary findings of the H2020 European project, Medit-Ageing, which investigates the effects of meditation interventions on aging populations through two randomized controlled clinical trials, namely Age-Well and SCD-Well.