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Yoga Practice, Stress and Cognitive Performance

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Know the risks and potential benefits of clinical studies and talk to your health care provider before participating. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT05232422
Recruitment Status : Recruiting
First Posted : February 9, 2022
Last Update Posted : February 9, 2022
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Bence Szaszkó, University of Vienna

Brief Summary:
It has been indicated in recent research that Mindfulness-based interventions may offer possibilities of promoting human stress processing and reducing anxiety or depression. They also appear to positively influence cognitive performance. One mindfulness-based intervention next to a variety of others is yoga, a combination of physical, spiritual, and mental practices of Indian origin that arose to alleviate suffering and enhance psychological and physical well-being. The goal of the study is to find out how Hatha Yoga, the most common form of yoga, consisting of stretches, yoga postures and conscious breathing, affects emotional and cognitive processes. An essential part of yoga seems to be the increase of self-regulation and consequently the regulation of stress processing and of cognitive processes in general. Building on the Attentional Control Theory, it is hypothesized that anxiety and stress limit inhibitory function - the ability to block distracting, irrelevant information - and also impair the shifting of attention that normally accompanies smooth switching between different tasks and their processing requirements. In a randomized controlled trial with an experimental and a waiting group, the investigators aim to investigate whether active participation in a 60-minute hatha yoga class (intervention) at least three times a week for two months leads to less experienced stress and improves inhibition and attentional shifting. The intervention period with pre- and postmeasurements is expected to start in early January 2022 and end in December 2022. To measure the effect of the intervention, the investigators use three experimental test tasks, one each to examine inhibition function (here, measured by distractor interference in visual search), switching between different tasks or sensory modalities (here, collected by comparing performance after passagewise alternation vs. repetition of a sound vs. light discrimination), and alternation between different stimulus features (here, determined by comparing passagewise repetition vs. alternation of target stimulus color in visual search). In all of the experimental tasks, behavioral data (reaction times and error rates) and, in two, additional electrophysiological measures (event-related potentials) are collected using EEG. To investigate the role of stress the investigators use questionnaires as well as biological stress markers from saliva. In addition, participants will receive a link to questionnaires to complete by the start of the yoga intervention. On top, trait mindfulness will be examined as a potential mechanism underlying the effects of yoga practice on attention and stress. The subjects' trait mindfulness will be assessed by questionnaire as well.

Condition or disease Intervention/treatment Phase
Attentional Control Switching Task Switching Between Modalities Inhibition Stress Anxiety Behavioral: Hatha yoga course Not Applicable

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Study Type : Interventional  (Clinical Trial)
Estimated Enrollment : 100 participants
Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Intervention Model Description: A pretest-posttest design is planned, with the pre- as well as the posttests each split into two sessions. Pretests are scheduled in the weeks before the intervention, posttests relatively soon after the intervention. At both data collection times, stress as well as cognitive performance (namely of attention) will be recorded in both groups (experimental group, waiting control group). While the experimental group participates in a 60-minute hatha yoga intervention at least three times a week for 8 weeks, the wait-list control group does not receive the yoga intervention until after the end of data collection.
Masking: None (Open Label)
Primary Purpose: Other
Official Title: The Influence of Hatha Yoga Practice on Stress and Cognitive Performance
Actual Study Start Date : January 15, 2022
Estimated Primary Completion Date : December 2022
Estimated Study Completion Date : December 2022

Resource links provided by the National Library of Medicine

MedlinePlus related topics: Anxiety

Arm Intervention/treatment
Experimental: Yoga-Intervention Group
This arm will participate in a hatha yoga course for a time period of 8 weeks with a frequency of at least 3 up to 5 times per week. Further they will participate in the pre- as well as the post-tests before and after the intervention.
Behavioral: Hatha yoga course
Participants will join a free hatha yoga course, conducted by a professional yoga teacher, over a time period of eight weeks with a frequency of at least three up to five times a week. The quality of the implementation of the intervention will be checked through post-monitoring by short questionnaires to be filled out by participants.

No Intervention: Waiting Control Group
For the first 8 weeks of the study this group will not receive any intervention. After the second measurement is completed they will get the possibility to participate in a hatha yoga course as well. Further they will participate in the pre- as well as the post-tests around the same time as the Yoga-Intervention group.

Primary Outcome Measures :
  1. Change in switching between Attentional Control Sets [ Time Frame: Baseline plus 8 weeks ]
    Switching between Attentional Control Sets will be measured by switching costs, meaning longer response times (RTs) for trial-by-trial switches than repetitions of a task, and hit rate. Both variables will be combined to assess the change in ability to switch between processing different features which is expected in the intervention group in comparison to the waiting control group.

  2. Change in task switching between modalities [ Time Frame: Baseline plus 8 weeks ]

    Task switching between modalities will be measured by speed regarding switches between modalities and error rate in the respective (auditive and visual) modalities. The ability to switch between different modalities is expected to have changed in the intervention group in comparison to the waiting control group. Switching speed will be analyzed by using steady-state visual evoked potentials and auditory steady-state potentials (both measured with EEG) with tagged frequencies.

    Switching speed and error rate will be combined to report task switching ability between modalities.

  3. Change in inhibition function [ Time Frame: Baseline plus 8 weeks ]

    Inhibition function will be measured by response time, hit rate and number of false alarms.

    In addition, dependent electrophysiological variables will be the mean amplitudes of two event-related potential components, named N2-posterior contralateral (N2pc) and distractor positivity (Pd). Named variables will be combined to assess the change in inhibition function that is expected in the intervention group vs. the control group.

  4. Change in attention shifting [ Time Frame: Baseline plus 8 weeks ]
    Attention shifting will be measured by an event-related potential named N2-posterior-contralateral (N2pc) with EEG. When target-similar items are processed, N2pc should be different in the intervention group than in the control group.

  5. Change in self-reported stress [ Time Frame: Baseline plus 8 weeks ]
    Self-reported stress will be measured with the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), ranging from 0 to 40 points, with higher scores indicating higher perceived stress.

  6. Change in physiological stress [ Time Frame: Baseline plus 8 weeks ]

    Physiological stress levels will be measured by biological markers (cortisol and alpha-amylase). Both are expected to have changed in the intervention group in comparison to the waitlisted control group, indicated by changed cortisol levels as well as changed alpha-amylase concentration.

    Both cortisol and alpha-amylase levels will be combined to report physiological stress.

  7. Change in self-reported anxiety [ Time Frame: Baseline plus 8 weeks ]

    Self-reported anxiety will be measured with the State-Trait-Anxiety Inventory (STAI) form Y, ranging from 20 to 80, with higher scores correlating with higher anxiety.

    Self-reported anxiety is expected to have changed in the intervention group in comparison to the waitlisted control group.

Information from the National Library of Medicine

Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contacts provided below. For general information, Learn About Clinical Studies.

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Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 40 Years   (Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

Inclusion Criteria:

  • healthy individual without mental or neurological disorder or disease
  • 18-40 years

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Insufficient comprehension of the German language
  • Current mental or neurological disorders (except eating disorders)
  • Current or regular yoga practice in the past
  • Uncorrected visual or auditive impairment
  • Scull fractures or head concussions within the last 6 weeks
  • Non-existence of a vaccination or convalescence certificate of COVID-19

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its identifier (NCT number): NCT05232422

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Contact: Bence Szaszkó, MA MSc +436607771061
Contact: Ulrich Ansorge, Univ.-Prof. Dr.

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University of Vienna Recruiting
Vienna, Austria, 1070
Contact: Bence Szaszkó, M.Sc.   
Sponsors and Collaborators
University of Vienna
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Study Chair: Ulrich Ansorge, Univ.-Prof. Dr. University of Vienna
  Study Documents (Full-Text)

Documents provided by Bence Szaszkó, University of Vienna:
Informed Consent Form  [PDF] December 30, 2021

Publications of Results:
Other Publications:
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Responsible Party: Bence Szaszkó, Principal Investigator, University of Vienna Identifier: NCT05232422    
Other Study ID Numbers: Noch fehlend
First Posted: February 9, 2022    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: February 9, 2022
Last Verified: February 2022
Individual Participant Data (IPD) Sharing Statement:
Plan to Share IPD: Undecided

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Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Drug Product: No
Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Device Product: No
Keywords provided by Bence Szaszkó, University of Vienna:
hatha yoga
attentional control settings
attentional control theory
task switching