Can Yoga Help Brain Fitness?

There is some evidence that yoga may benefit the brain, but the benefits aren’t clear yet. According to research, the practice of yoga has a positive effect on gray and white matter in the hippocampus, which is known to be involved in emotional processing and memory. It also reduces the BOLD response to negative emotional images in the amygdala, and increases connections in the default mode network.

Meditation and breathing components of yoga

Yoga, a practice that incorporates physical postures and slow breathing, has been shown to be a beneficial exercise for the mind. In fact, one study found that daily yoga practices significantly reduced negative emotions and self-compassion.

In addition to its health benefits, yoga has also been linked to a reduction in chronic stress. Specifically, yoga may be useful for emotion-focused stress coping, which involves cognitively reappraising stressful situations and reducing physiological arousal through relaxation.

A study by Christmann et al., in a review of various yoga exercises, showed that yogic breathing is a viable option for reducing stress. It also demonstrated that it may be a viable component of a yoga mediation program. The results of this study offer fresh insights into the benefits of yoga, which can have important implications for public health.

Yogic breathing has also been shown to decrease anxiety and depression, which may help explain its efficacy as a stress coping technique. However, more research is needed to understand the underlying mechanisms.

One possible reason for this effect is that slow, deep breathing stimulates parasympathetic activity, which produces feelings of relaxation. Other researchers have found that yoga helps increase the size and strength of the diaphragm, the most efficient breathing muscle.

Several other studies have shown that yoga helps improve overall health. For instance, a study found that a YOMI program (Yoga and Mindfulness Intervention) was able to reduce both anxiety and depression.

These results suggest that yoga interventions are effective in addressing some of the biggest ills of the modern world. Specifically, stress and depression have been linked to increased mortality risk for comorbid conditions. Fortunately, yoga can help build resilience, a critical component of physical health.

Increased gray and white matter in the hippocampus

White and gray matter in the brain are two distinct regions, but they often co-alter. The pathological brains of patients with AD and MCI are characterized by structural co-alterations in both.

In this study, we used regions of interest (ROI) based surface morphometry to investigate the alterations in the gray and white matter over the progression of AD. This technique provides a novel perspective to explore the underlying pathophysiology of AD and may enable earlier detection of this neurodegenerative disorder.

We examined the sulcus depth, cortical thickness, white matter integrity and fractional anisotropy in both the left and right hemispheres in CD and CTL. The differences in these parameters were correlated with MAGL expression in the left splenium.

The CD group showed higher correlation slopes than the CTL group. However, the CD group showed a smaller gray matter density in most of the regions. For example, the CD group had a lower gray matter density in 32 of the 34 regions, including the precuneus.

Similarly, the CD group’s gray matter integrity was also significantly decreased. However, no association was found between the gray matter density and tobacco use.

There was a significant correlation between the fractional anisotropy and gray matter density in the splenium. Moreover, the cortical thickness in the CD group was significantly thinner. These differences were attributed to both spatial and gene expression gradients.

Our findings suggest that a low order spatial gradient in gene expression, as well as spatial dependencies on neighboring regions, may explain the significant spatial correlations observed in this study. Further, the CD group’s cortical thinning was also associated with the expression of FAAH.

Interestingly, we found that the CD group’s gray matter density was lower in the precuneus than the CTL group. Furthermore, the MAGL expression was positively correlated with the gray matter density in the precuneus.

Increased connections in the default mode network

The default mode network is an assemblage of brain regions that are active during the resting state. It includes regions such as the lateral prefrontal cortex, ventral medial prefrontal cortex, and posterior cingulate gyrus. A related network, the task-positive network, has also been studied. The latter has been linked to internally directed cognition and memory processes.

A recent study tested the hypothesis that meditation – the ancient Egyptian practice of seated breathing and chanting – would have a positive effect on the DMN, and that this effect was the most pronounced in the presence of a meditative stimulus. This may well have implications for both healthy aging and brain plasticity.

Using fMRI, the study looked at the connections between two brain regions, and the relative strength of their corresponding connectivity. Although previous imaging studies have used small samples, this one was able to make a larger sample size work for it. In fact, the present study replicated the findings of its predecessors, and it also demonstrated the effects of the former on the latter.

For the DMN, the study tested the effect of meditation on the activity of the so-called default mode. Specifically, the researchers tested whether meditation would be associated with a reduction in activity in the DMN, as measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging. While this is an important question, we cannot say for sure. But we can conclude that the benefits of meditation do indeed outweigh the negatives. Furthermore, the present study is the first of its kind to test this theory in a large group of participants. As a result, it is a logical next step to determine whether a broader cross-section of participants might benefit from meditation.

Reduced amygdala BOLD response to negative emotional images

Studies have shown that participants use cognitive reappraisal to reduce the intensity of their emotional reactions to negative images. However, how these strategies work and the timing of the responses remain unknown. In this study, researchers examined the BOLD response to negative emotions during cognitive reappraisal. They compared the responses of healthy subjects to those of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD).

As part of the study, participants were given an emotion regulation task. This task involved the presentation of positive and negative images. Participants were instructed to reinterpret the meaning of the images. For each picture, participants rated the negative emotions associated with it. Researchers examined the time course of the HRF to determine the temporal dynamics of brain regions involved in emotion regulation.

First, anatomical scans were collected. Next, participants underwent functional imaging. Finally, a resting-state scan was performed. Researchers analyzed the data by fitting a generalized least-squares model (GLM) to individual BOLD response values. Holm’s adjusted p-values were used to account for multiple comparisons.

As the name suggests, the most important tidbit from this study is that participants did not show a large overall increase in amygdala activity. Rather, there was a smaller increase in bilateral activation when participants performed a reappraisal.

A more thorough analysis incorporated several factors including: age, gender, and reappraisal strategy. Reappraise trials were more effective at reducing participants’ negative emotions than look-negativity trials. The effect was most pronounced in the late time window, which correlated with behavioral measures of reappraisal success.

Likewise, the HRF’s newest trick is that it is linked to prefrontal cortex, which has been linked to emotions. The VMPFC, which is located in the perigenual anterior cingulate cortex (PACC) and is part of the default-mode network, has been shown to correlate with negative emotional valence.

Lower GM density in the yoga group compared to the two control groups

Yoga practice has been linked to increased brain volume in certain areas, including the hippocampus. However, the effects of yoga practice on the whole brain GM are not well understood. This study aimed to determine the relationship between years of practice and a range of predictors of GM volume.

Two separate wholebrain VBM regression analyses were performed. The first, using standard multiple regression analyses, was used to identify the best aspect of the yoga intervention. Regression commonality analysis was then used to partition the effects commonly explained by all possible combinations of predictors.

A total of 106 yogis participated in the study. Participants in the yoga group were aged 47.0 +- 9.7 years. They were comprised of 43% males. Researchers were able to control for age and years of practice by correlating mean GM volume with yoga duration.

Results showed that the overall GM volume of the yoga group was smaller than the two control groups. The slopes of the GM regression line were not statistically significant.

Wholebrain regression analyses also revealed that a number of significant clusters related to weekly yoga practice were identified. Among them were significant correlations between the amount of time devoted to yoga postures and the volume of the right primary visual cortex (BA 17) and the left oblique gyrus. There was a larger volume in the left BA 44, which may be related to the sequencing process.

Increasing the amount of weekly yoga practice was associated with increased GM volumes in the hippocampus and the right S1/SPL. It was also associated with an increase in GM volumes in the left midinsula and the right frontal operculum.

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