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Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Health Education, and Exercise

Active, not recruiting

This study will examine the effects on age-related cognitive decline of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), aerobic exercise, and their combination, compared with a health discussion group.

Minimum Age Maximum Age Gender Healthy Volunteers
65 Years 84 Years Both Yes
April 2015
June 2021

  • Living in the community
  • Self-reported cognitive complaints that are a normal part of aging
  • Sedentary

  • Known diagnosis of dementia, mild cognitive impairment, or other neurodegenerative illness such as Parkinson's disease or cerebrovascular disease
  • Psychotic disorder or any unstable psychiatric condition
  • Medical conditions that suggest shortened lifespan (such as metastatic cancer), that would prohibit safe participation in the study (including cardiovascular disease or musculoskeletal conditions), or that would interfere with the assessments (such as taking medications for diabetes or ferromagnetic metal/bridgework that would interfere with MRI)
  • IQ of <70
  • Sensory impairment (language, hearing, or visual) that would prevent participation
  • Alcohol abuse within the past 6 months; current illicit drug use
  • Cognitive training, such as brain-training software or other interventions expected to affect neuroplasticity
  • Current meditation practice or prior training
  • Medications that interfere with measurements, including cancer chemotherapy, glucocorticoids, and interferon

Participants will be randomly assigned to one of four groups:

  • The mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) group will meet weekly for 8 weeks to learn mindfulness, or the focusing of attention and awareness, through various meditation techniques, along with gentle mindful movement and exercises to enhance mindfulness in everyday life. Mindfulness meditation practices appear to produce neurocircuitry changes that may prevent age-related cognitive decline. There will be monthly booster sessions for 15 months.
  • The exercise group will engage in aerobic exercise to improve fitness and insulin activity. Exercise also appears to affect brain structure and function and improve cognitive performance. This group will take classes twice weekly for 6 months, followed by once weekly classes for 12 months.
  • The MBSR and exercise group will receive both interventions. It will meet once weekly to receive MBSR and twice weekly to receive exercise classes, with at-home exercise the other two days as well as daily, at-home mindfulness practice.
  • The health education group is the control group. It consists of 10 weekly classes, followed by monthly classes for approximately 15 months.

Assessments include cognitive tests, biomarker measurements, neuroimaging assessments, functional assessments to examine real-world benefits of the interventions, and other behavioral assessments to characterize participants and pave the way for further exploratory analyses.

Name City State Zip Status Primary Contact
University of California San Diego
San Diego California 92122

Washington University School of Medicine
Saint Louis Missouri 63110

Washington University School of Medicine

  • University of California, San Diego
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • National Institute on Aging (NIA)
  • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)
  • Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research
  • McKnight Brain Research Foundation

Name Role Affiliation
Eric J. Lenze, MD Principal Investigator Washington University School of Medicine

Name Phone Email
Michelle Voegtle 314-362-6400


Remediating Age Related Cognitive Decline: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Exercise