Cleveland Clinic to investigate yoga and other lifestyle interventions for epilepsy in largest prospective study to date

The Cleveland Clinic recently announced the launch of a new study that will investigate the effect of multiple lifestyle interventions on seizures in adults with difficult-to-treat epilepsy. Researchers hope to learn more about the links between epilepsy and stress. 

According to the World Health Organization, 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy; it is one of the most common neurological diseases globally. Research suggests that there is a correlation between stress and seizures, making yoga—which has stress-reducing effects—a potential lifestyle intervention for people with epilepsy. 

In the article, Imad Najm, MD, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Charles Shor Epilepsy Center, explains that “people with epilepsy often have cognitive deficits as well as psychosocial and psychiatric issues that impact daily functioning and quality of life, including increased levels of stress. Our study objective is to evaluate nonpharmacologic lifestyle interventions as an adjunct to standard anti-seizure medication therapy to determine whether stress relief can reduce seizures and ultimately reduce or prevent memory decline.”

In addition to standard epilepsy care, some study participants will undergo cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), music therapy, or yoga. Others will be placed in control groups, which receive only standard epilepsy care. In this way, researchers will be able to see how the lifestyle interventions of CBT, music therapy, and yoga potentially cause different outcomes as compared to standard care. 

But what will this yoga intervention look like? The Cleveland Clinic explains:

“The yoga intervention is designed to teach gentle yoga focused on meditation, breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques to foster well-being and stress reduction. Patients start by engaging in 70-minute virtual live yoga classes led by a yoga therapist twice weekly for the first month and once weekly for months 2 and 3. Patients are urged to practice on their own at home for up to 30 minutes daily on non-class days. During the nine months of self-guided intervention, patients engage in online prerecorded yoga classes.”

Researchers predict that participants receiving one of the three lifestyle interventions will experience reduced seizure frequency relative to those in the control group, along with reductions in stress, depression, and anxiety. Dr. Najm explains that, If they see these outcomes, “that will support incorporating behavioral and wellness-based lifestyle interventions into the everyday management of patients with epilepsy.”

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