A sort of settling in has occurred. The first day of any conference, especially one with a preconference where half of the attendees are present and the other half still arriving, is hectic, overly busy figuring out schedules, how to get from one place to another. Today we have it down.
The sun rose as we were yoga classes: two were offered, an all levels in the auditorium and a level II on an upper floor yoga room of the dorm area. My class was with Mary Cardinal who is the Yoga therapist at the wellness center here. So good.
I was also struck as I was making my way from the room down to this hall in the breaking dawn, at how much attention is paid to the décor in the building. At each turn a painting I hadn’t noticed yesterday greeted me, or a vase of flowers carefully set on a Indian cloth smiled.
The 9 AM session has just opened and John Kepner announced that the slides from all the talks will be up on the DRL within the next couple of days.
Kim Innes announced the first speaker, Chris Streeter, MD, on brain imaging. It’s about Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which is a inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian brain. And it is very important for treating alcohol, depression, epilepsy, other. Subjects were put in mRIs and GaBA was measured. Using MRS, GABA levels are low in people who are depressed, anxious, alcohol dependenc, cocaine dependence or with epilspy. She’s talking why there is overlap and that it’s probably related to GABA
She is trained as a neurologist and psychologist. Increasing GABA levels increases symptoms. Yoga has been shown to improve symptoms associated with the same disorder. So they hypothesize that Yoga improves the symptoms related to depression, anxiety, and epilepsy y increasing brain GABA levels.
The pilot stydy is called Yoga Asana session increases Brain GABA Levels: A Pilot study. Practitioners 3z/wk, no other mind body practice.
Design: they had the scan. 60 minut yoga session, rest, get back in scan and have second scan. The were well matched, not smokers, not drinkers. Could do a wide variety of types of yoga, 4-6 times per week. Lots of yoga instructors in the group.
Showing slide of brain scan: Measured changes in each boxed area. Most of the changes occurred in the deep brain area showing a great increase in GABA. Now she’s showing a slide that shows the GABA pattern before and after Yoga. It is a measureable effect.
There was really nothing going on in the control group.
She’s saying that menstrual stage does matter. Hadn’t controlled for it.Menstrual stage did not effect the association.
The conclusion is that in experienced yoga practitioners increases in brain GABA levels are associated with the asana session.
Study 2, Also Dr. Streeter, Effects of Yoga Versus Walking on Mood, Anxiety, and Brain GABA evels: A Randomized Controlled MRS Study
Streeter notes, to laughs from audience , that she was told if you’re going to do research, do it with something you like because you’re going to do it for much longer than you’d thought.
Streeter goes through the design which you’ll be able to see on her slides soon on the DRL. The scans on these two groups were done in the thalamus. Important: in this study they also did mood scales using the EIFI, Panas and STAI. Showed the yoga group had significant improvements and decreases in anxiety, greater changes than the walking group.
This is a really interesting study because there is already a lot of literature showing that exercise improves mood levels. This study shows that yoga improves the mood more than walking, increases the GABA levels more.
Dr. Streeter qualifies these results by telling us that the walking was done in the basement of a gym, most of the walkers were used to a lot more activity. But does support what we know, that we feel better if we do a regular yoga practice.
Discussion is around parasympathetic nervous system and the vagus nerve. Heart rate variability is mediated by the vagus nerve. Data indicates that decreased HRV has been documented in depression and anxiety; increases in HRV have been shown with yoga breathing and that Iyengar Yoga increases HRV.
It is probably parasympathetic stimulation that is the common thread to treating depression and epilepsy.
Now I have to run to the tearoom to post this. Back to back presentations today, 30 minutes each. Will post on some of these.