Introduction: Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder leading to multiple problems including academic difficulties and impaired skills. Information processing is abnormal in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their central nervous system (CNS) is either over or under aroused and reaction time (RT) is a useful marker to study the ability of CNS. Subjects and Methods: 72 ASD children were divided equally into control group (Group I) who did not undergo yoga training and yoga group (Group II) who received 60 minutes’ yoga training, five days a week, for 12 weeks. Components of yoga protocol included jathis, kriyas, asanas, pranayamas and yogic relaxation.(Table 1). Auditory RT (ART) and Visual RT (VRT) were recorded before and after 12 weeks' yoga training using RT apparatus. Data was assessed for normality using GraphPad InStat version 3.06 for Windows 95. Wilcoxon matched‑pairs signed‑ranks test was used for intragroup comparison and Mann–Whitney test for intergroup comparison. P <0.05 was accepted as indicating significance. Results: Values were given as Median (Range). Intra-group comparisons showed a highly significant increase in ART in group I (p < 0.001) whereas both ART and VRT decreased significantly in group II (p < 0.001) with yoga training. Intergroup comparisons show highly significant differences in ART and VRT values (P< 0.0001). Delta % changes are also highly significant for both ART and VRT (P< 0.0001). (Table II). Discussion: Significant reduction in ART and VRT signify faster reactivity due to greater arousal and faster rate of information processing along with improved concentration, increased neurotransmitter production along with significant decrease of cortisol and increase in brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), serotonin, and dopamine and/or enhanced central neuronal processing resulting in better sense of alertness, sensitivity and awareness in autistic children following yoga which forms the basis of many cognitive tasks. Conclusion: Yoga training may be utilized to reduce dependency on others and enhance learning capabilities and social skills in ASD children. We suggest that yoga be made a part of everyday schedule in schools for children with special needs as it can enhance quality of life and improve overall health among this population.
Key Words: reaction time, central neuronal processing, social skills, quality of life
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