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07-05-2012 | Mental health | Article

Yoga may improve cognition in schizophrenia


Free abstract

MedWire News: Schizophrenia patients who take part in a program of yoga show improvements in the cognitive domain of attention relative to their peers who receive treatment as usual, study results show.

"Although the precise physiological basis for the beneficial effects of yoga is unknown it is possible that some of the beneficial effects of yoga are related to stabilization/normalization of autonomic function," Triptish Bhatia (Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Delhi, India) and colleagues comment.

Cognitive impairments are a prominent feature of schizophrenia and deficits in long-term memory, working verbal memory, and executive functioning have been consistently associated with poor functional outcome in the disorder.

As pharmacologic treatment is not routinely efficacious, there is ongoing interest in adjunctive non-pharmacologic interventions for ameliorating cognitive deficits.

Yoga is viewed by many practitioners as a systematic process designed to purify the body and the mind from toxins accumulated due to improper lifestyle choices and negative thinking patterns.

It has been shown to improve cognitive function in healthy individuals, but its impact on cognitive function among schizophrenia patients has not been investigated.

The researchers therefore conducted a trial among 88 patients with schizophrenia, 65 of whom took part in a yoga program while the remaining 23 carried on with treatment as usual.

The yoga protocol was designed for the study in consultation with the Central Council of Research and Naturopathy (AYUSH) and comprised a daily 1-hour session over 21 consecutive days, excluding Sundays.

Before and after the yoga program, patients completed a computerised neurocognitive battery (CNB), which assessed accuracy and speed for seven cognitive domains.

Bhatia et al found that the yoga group showed significantly greater improvement with regard to measures of attention compared with the treatment-as-usual group immediately after completion of the regimen as well as at the 2-month point.

The improvement was, however, more prominent among the men than the women.

Discussing the findings, the researchers say schizophrenia patients "could benefit from simple economical yoga exercises if these are incorporated in their treatment regimens."

"This cognitive improvement may help them in their rehabilitation and adjustment in society," they add in Acta Neuropsychiatrica.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Andrew Czyzewski

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