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Ruchika Prakash, PhD

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Effects of mindfulness training on cognitive and brain plasticity of older adults

Ruchika Prakash, PhD, has been awarded a pilot grant from the Center for Clinical and Translational Science at The Ohio State Medical Center. The grant will allow her to explore the effects of mindfulness training on cognitive and brain plasticity of older adults. 

Prakash received her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She currently works as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at OSU.

Prakash has been interested in the change of cognitive abilities associated with aging, and plans to use lifestyle intervention to reduce these effects. 

In the past, exercise has been one lifestyle factor that has been shown to have benefits. Through this study, Prakash and colleagues are interested in seeing if mindfulness training can have benefits for the overall health of older adults.

“Mindfulness is about bringing attention to the present moment experience,” Prakash said.  

A practitioner of mindfulness herself, Prakash said that it has helped her both mentally and emotionally. She believes that participants of the study will also demonstrate improved mental cognition and emotional regulation.

Seniors ranging from age 60 to 75 will be recruited for the eight-week clinical trial. The participants will complete tasks of attention and memory and have MRI images taken of their brain. The images will be compared to those of another group, consisting of older adults in a separate lifestyle education group. 

If an improvement in cognitive function is seen, Prakash believes that intervention techniques could be implemented into the lifestyles of the baby boomer generation. As the generation ages, there will be an increased number of services and needs to assist adults dealing with decline in cognitive abilities.

“Simple changes in lifestyle can help cognitive functioning,” Prakash said.

Mindfulness is one change that could significantly reduce the cost of taking care of adults as they age.

By Becky King, Monday, August 30, 2010
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