Effects of Yoga on Serum cortisol and BDNF in patients with major depression.

The linked study here examined the association between serum BDNF and cortisol levels in patients with depression treated with antidepressants, yoga therapy, and both.

Go to the profile of Heather Mason
May 24, 2016
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https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27174729

Neuroplasticity is a real buzz word in neuroscience at the moment and describes the way in which our brains reorganise themselves by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment. Merzenich is one of the main scientists over the past 30 years who has transformed the field of neurology by overturning the dogma that our mental abilities are immutable and fixed early in life. Cognitive impairment associated with neurological maladies, such as strokes and traumatic brain injury, were once considered to be largely untreatable. Normal age-related cognitive decline was also considered to be unavoidable. But Merzenich and other researchers have shown that the brain can physically remodel itself and that the brain we are born with is not a fixed structure with a set of weaknesses and strengths at all.

Depression is associated with both low serum Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and elevated levels of serum cortisol. The linked study here examined the association between serum BDNF and cortisol levels in patients with depression treated with antidepressants, yoga therapy, and both. 54 people diagnosed with depression took part in the study receiving anti-depressants only, yoga therapy only, or yoga with antidepressants. Both BDNF and cortisol levels were measured before the intervention and three months subsequently. A significant negative correlation was observed between change in BDNF (pre-post) and cortisol (pre-post) levels in the yoga-only group. The author concluded that yoga may facilitate neuroplasticity through stress reduction in depressed patients. Further studies are needed, however. to confirm these findings and to delineate the pathways for these effects.

Go to the profile of Heather Mason

Heather Mason

Founder of the Minded Institute, The Minded Institute

Heather Mason is a leader in the field of mind-body therapy and the founder of Yoga Therapy for the Mind. She develops innovative methods for mental health treatment drawing on her robust educational background including an MA in Psychotherapy, an MA in Buddhist Studies, studies in Neuroscience and a current MSc in Medical Physiology.. She is also a 500 RYT, a yoga therapist and an MBCT facilitator. Heather offers various professional trainings for yoga teachers, healthcare professionals and therapists, lectures around the world, and delivers training to medical students. She also develops protocols for different client populations by translating cutting edge research from the psycho-biology and neuro-biology of stress into yoga practices, breathwork, mindfulness interventions and therapeutic holding. Further she is involved in research on the efficacy of these practices, holds the annual UK yoga therapy conference and is blazing the trail for the integration of yoga therapy into the NHS

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