Yoga Practice Facilitates Prefrontal Oxygenation and Working Memory in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Patients: A Pilot Study

Kaligal Chidananda, PhD(c); Deepeshwar Singh, PhD; Kanthi Amit, PhD(c); Vidyashree Mahadevappa, PhD(c); Dwivedi Krishna, PhD(c)


Background • Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is associated with cognitive decline.  Lifestyle behaviors such as yoga practices play a significant role in preventing cognitive decline.

Purpose • The goal of this study was to assess the effect of yoga intervention on working memory and  prefrontal cortex (PFC) oxygenation in T2DM patients.

Methods Twenty T2DM participants, aged between 40 and 60 years, volunteered for a 6-week study. Participants were randomized into a yoga practice (n = 10) and a waitlist control group (n = 10). The n-back task was administered to evaluate working memory before and after the intervention. While performing the working memory task,  PFC oxygenation was monitored using functional near-infrared spectroscopy.

Results The yoga group showed a significant improvement in working memory performance. The accuracy improved in 1-back (mean difference of 4.73%, 95% CI[0.69,8.77], P = .026) and 2-back (8.0%, 95% CI[1.89,14.1], P = .016) task conditions. The reaction time improved in 0-back (mean difference of -79.07 milliseconds, 95% CI[-128.3,-29.8]), 1-back (mean difference of -119.17 milliseconds, 95% CI[-217.5,-20.8] ) and 2-back (-76.06 milliseconds, 95% CI[-148.8,-3.3]) task conditions. In the yoga group, at post-intervention, higher oxygenation was observed during 0-back and 1-back task conditions (Beta coefficient mean difference of 211.3, 95% CI[2.8, 420.0], P = .048 and 80.5, 95% CI [3.7,157.2], P = .042 respectively) in the left PFC region compared to the pre-intervention values. The control group showed no significant change in working memory performance and  PFC oxygenation.

Conclusions The study suggests that yoga practice may improve working memory performance and  facilitate higher PFC oxygenation in T2DM patients. Further studies with a larger sample and a longer intervention period are required to strengthen the findings. (Adv Mind Body Med. 2023;37(2):24-31.)

Kaligal Chidananda, PhD Scholar; Deepeshwar Singh, PhD, Associate Professor; Kanthi Amit, PhD Scholar; Vidyashree Mahadevappa, PhD Scholar; Dwivedi Krishna, PhD Scholar, Department of Yoga and Life Sciences, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (S-VYASA), Bangalore, India.

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