Yoga provides health benefits to older women prone to Alzheimer’s disease: Study


According to a research, elderly women who are at risk for Alzheimer’s disease may benefit from practicing Kundalini yoga, which incorporates breathing, meditation, and mental visualization.

Kundalini Yoga’s Positive Impact on Memory and Brain Connectivity

In a UCLA Health research, it was shown that older women with risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease who were worried about bouts of memory decline would benefit from practicing Kundalini joga, a kind of yoga that emphasizes breathing, meditation, and mental visualization. Researchers from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behaviour found that Kundalini yoga, which combines movement and meditation and focuses on breathing, mantra recitation, and mental visualization, increased connectivity in a region of the brain that can be affected by stress and is linked to memory decline. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published the results early online.

Researchers from UCLA examined the effects of yoga on connections in subregions of the hippocampus, a crucial region of the brain for learning and memory, in comparison to the gold-standard method of memory enhancement training (MET). The study was overseen by psychiatrist Dr. Helen Lavretsky. MET is evolved from methods that employ practical memory-improving techniques including verbal and visual association.


Benefits of Kundalini Yoga for Brain Health in Women with Stress and Memory Concerns

“Kundalini yoga training appears to better target stress-related hippocampal connectivity, whereas MET may better target sensory-integration subregions of the hippocampus, supporting better memory reliability,” said Lavretsky, the program’s director for late-life mood, stress, and wellness research.

“The key takeaway is that this study adds to the literature supporting the benefits of joga for brain health, especially for women who have greater perceived stress and subjective memory impairment,” the author stated. “This gentle form of yoga, which focuses more on breathing and mental engagement than on movement, like other forms of health interventions, is ideal for older adults who may have some physical limitations.”


Yoga and MET Training for Alzheimer’s Risk Reduction

22 people who had taken part in a larger randomized controlled trial looking at joga’s impact on Alzheimer’s risk were included in the research. The average age of the 11 yoga participants was around 61, whereas the average age of the MET group was about 65. Every single one of them had self-reported memory loss during the preceding year, as well as one or more cardiovascular risk factors, which may also raise the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease. These included the management of high blood pressure or high cholesterol, recent heart attack, diabetes, and artery plaque formation.

Each week for 12 weeks, there was a 60-minute in-person training session for the yoga and MET groups. The programs also included regular practice sessions or homework. A short, meditative yoga practice called Kirtan Kriya was practiced at home in conjunction with the Kundalini yoga (KY) program. According to earlier research, these styles of yoga include several senses at once and include chanting, which may enhance respiratory, cardiovascular, and autonomic nervous system functioning.

Neuroprotective Effects of Yoga and MET on Hippocampus Connectivity and Memory

In a recent study, Lavretsky and her colleagues found that older persons with moderate cognitive impairment who practiced Kundalini and Kirtan Kriya joga saw improvements in their levels of resilience, executive functioning, and depression. Additionally, they discovered that among older women with subjective memory deterioration and cardiovascular risk factors, yoga had a more significant neuroprotective impact on right hippocampus volume than MET, which may indicate enhanced memory function.

To determine the connectivity of the hippocampus in its resting state, the current research used specialized functional MRI. This imaging, which is thought to be more sensitive to cognitive alterations than hippocampal sizes, allowed the researchers to assess different hippocampus subregions and contrast the effects of joga and memory practice.

According to their research, yoga “training may better target hippocampal subregion connectivity impacted by stress, which may aid in processing information, including facial information, into memory,” the authors wrote. They also speculated that the greater connectivity between the anterior and posterior hippocampal subregions with KY KK training than with MET “may suggest superior long-term neuroprotective benefits in terms of vulnerable hippocampal connections critical to memory.”

MET seems to be more effective than yoga in helping the hippocampus integrate data from many senses.

Effectiveness of MET and KY KK on Hippocampal Connectivity and Memory: Implications and Future Research

The many mnemonic approaches used in MET, including as verbal, visual, and spatial associative methods, all work to improve the integration of multimodal sensory information into memory functions. Accordingly, MET may outperform KY KK in terms of crucial hippocampus sensory integration for memory, which might enable more reliable memory, the research found.

The authors note that although the small study suggests that these types of health interventions may be especially advantageous to women who report experiencing stress and have additional risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, future, large-scale studies with a control arm or placebo group will be required to clarify the positive effects of both health interventions and MET on hippocampal connectivity and memory.

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