Greater Anteroposterior Default Mode Network Functional Connectivity in Long-Term Elderly Yoga Practitioners

Front Aging Neurosci. 2019 Jul 2;11:158. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2019.00158. eCollection 2019.


Large-scale brain networks exhibit changes in functional connectivity during the aging process. Recent literature data suggests that Yoga and other contemplative practices may revert, at least in part, some of the aging effects in brain functional connectivity, including the Default Mode Network (DMN). The aim of this cross-sectional investigation was to compare resting-state functional connectivity of the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and posterior cingulate cortex-precuneus (PCC-Precuneus) in long-term elderly Yoga practitioners and healthy paired Yoga-naïve controls. Two paired groups: yoga (Y-20 women, Hatha Yoga practitioners; practicing a minimum of twice a week with a frequency of at least 8 years) and a control group (C-20 women, Yoga-naïve, matched by age, years of formal education, and physical activity) were evaluated for: Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL), and open-eyes resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)-seed to voxel connectivity analysis (CONN toolbox 17.f) with pre-processing-realignment and unwarping, slice-timing correction, segmentation, normalization, outlier detection, and spatial filtering. The analysis included a priori regions of interest (ROI) of DMN main nodes-MPFC and PCC-Precuneus. There was no difference between groups in terms of: age, years of formal education, MMSE, BDI and IADL. The Yoga group had a higher correlation between MPFC and the right angular gyrus (AGr), compared to the controls. Elderly women with at least 8 years of yoga practice presented greater intra-network anteroposterior brain functional connectivity of the DMN. This finding may contribute to the understanding of the influences of practicing Yoga for a healthier cognitive aging process.

Keywords: angular gyrus; cognition; default mode network; elderly; functional connectivity; health aging; yoga.