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2016 Grants - Acevedo
Caregiving, Empathy and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Pilot Study
Bianca Acevedo, Ph.D.
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, California
2016 Alzheimer’s Association Research Fellowship to Promote Diversity (AARF-D)
Can a meditation intervention increase empathy and improve quality of life for caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease can present serious challenges for caregivers, often affecting their emotional and physical health. Studies have found that meditation can help improve caregiver skills and quality of life by reducing stress and improving mood and resiliency. In addition, evidence suggests that meditation can affect regions of the brain linked to empathy. Enhanced empathy can help strengthen the emotional ties between caregivers and individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Positive interactions with caregivers have been shown to influence long-term outcomes such as survival rates and well-being in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. More research is needed to determine if meditation could be an effective way to increase empathy in caregivers and to explore the underlying mechanisms that may be involved.
Bianca Acevedo, Ph.D., and colleagues will conduct a study to measure the effects of meditation on caregiver empathy and quality of life. They will recruit 40 mildly depressed caregivers of people with mild cognitive impairment, a condition of subtle memory loss that may precede Alzheimer’s disease. Half of the participants will receive an 8-week meditation therapy, while the other half will receive a standard health class without meditation. The researchers will measure changes in the caregivers’ mood, empathy levels and relationship satisfaction. The investigators will also use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine if the group that received meditation shows increased activity in empathy-related brain regions.
The results of these studies could help determine if meditation may increase empathy in caregivers and provide novel insight into the brain regions that underlie these changes. Importantly, this work may identify meditation as an effective intervention to improve quality of life and health outcomes for both caregivers and individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.