Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Gothe: The yoga group was speedier and more accurate on tests of information recall, mental flexibility and task-switching than it had been before the intervention. Participants in the yoga group showed significant improvements in working memory capacity, which involves continually updating and manipulating information. They were also able to perform the task at hand quickly and accurately, without getting distracted.
Medical Research: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Dr. Gothe: Not really. Based on our pilot study conducted before this trial, we had hypothesized that the yoga group will show some cognitive improvements following the 8 week intervention.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Gothe: Yoga is a very adaptable and hence suitable form of exercise for older adults. It is gentle, requires minimal equipment and can be modified for persons who may have functional limitations. Although the scientific evidence is just coming in, clinicians should consider recommending yoga as a form of physical as well as mental exercise to patients, especially older adults, to maintain and potentially improve their cognitive health in old age.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Gothe: This is just the beginning. Research in the field of physical activity (primarily walking, aerobic exercise) has advanced to a point where state of art technologies such as MRIs are used to determine precise neurobiological changes. Similar work needs to be done with yoga interventions in the future as well as developing recommendations and guidelines for yoga practice.