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yoga and memory

Yoga has the proven power to help slow the aging process on our bodies, but how about our brains? According to the findings of a new study, older adults with early signs of memory problems may benefit from a weekly practice of yoga and meditation. The study, partially funded by the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, found that this weekly yoga practice may strengthen thinking skills and help delay aging-related mental decline.

Results of the Study

The study included 14 yoga participants and 11 memory enhancement training (MET) participants. All of the participants first underwent a sophisticated type of brain scan that tracks how different parts of the brain communicate with one another. Then they were divided into two groups. For one hour a week, one group participated in brain training exercises, and for one hour week, the other group participated in a yoga classes. All of the volunteers practiced their programs for 12 weeks. At the end of the 12 weeks, all participants participated in another brain scan.

The results were reported as follows: The yoga group demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in depression and visuospatial memory. The researchers observed improved verbal memory performance correlated with increased connectivity between the DMN and frontal medial cortex, pregenual anterior cingulate cortex, right middle frontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, and left lateral occipital cortex. Improved verbal memory performance positively correlated with increased connectivity between the language processing network and the left inferior frontal gyrus. Improved visuospatial memory performance correlated inversely with connectivity between the superior parietal network and the medial parietal cortex.

Yoga and Memory Enhancement

So what does all of this mean?  The conclusion of the survey suggests that yoga may be as effective as memory enhancement training in improving functional connectivity in relation to verbal memory performance. “We were a bit surprised by the magnitude” of the brain effects, said Dr. Helen Lavretsky, a professor of psychiatry at U.C.L.A. who oversaw the study.

Though more research is needed, the evidence seems to support the idea that by combining physical activity with meditation and meditative activities like yoga, it may be possible to strengthen the benefits of both pursuits, and thus help improve memory function.

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