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SuperBrain yoga is a yoga practice that features holding your earlobes with your opposite hands.

It is described in a 2005 book. The ad copy claims:

SuperBrain Yoga is a scientifically validated method to help super-energize the brain and enhance its sharpness and clarity. This simple and easy to do technique develops and increases intellectual capacity and sharpens memory & concentration.

The NeuroLogica blog criticises it:

The underlying theory is also completely without basis. Acupuncture points, put simply, do not exist. There is no reason to accept the existence of life energy, or subtle energy, prana, chi, chakras or meridians.

[...]

Superbrain Yoga is nonsense. It is prescientific Eastern superstition repackaged for clueless Westerners.

Does SuperBrain yoga practices improve cognition, as claimed?

  • Based on a quick glance at the www.wikihow.com/Do-Superbrain-Yoga it looks like an April Fool's joke. – Martin F Apr 23 '18 at 4:24
  • Welcome to Skeptics. What is the specific claim you want us to investigate? Is there any truth to what? – Oddthinking Apr 23 '18 at 7:28
  • @oddthinking Edited. Is this enough? Would you like me to clarify more? – Eliyahu Apr 24 '18 at 2:23
  • It is very broad. I am going to restrict it to one claim. – Oddthinking Apr 24 '18 at 16:04
  • If I'm holding my ears, how do I do "downward dog" without face-planting? Or is there no actual yoga involved? – PoloHoleSet Apr 25 '18 at 16:51
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A quick Google Scholar search found these articles, which are very different in what they measure.

Cognition

I was not able to read the full paper, but the abstract says quite a lot (emphasis added):

Superbrain Yoga is an exercise that involves squatting while holding the ear lobes with controlled breathing. Advocates claim that this exercise improves cognition and academic performance. This study tested the ability of Superbrain Yoga to improve performance on a cognitive task called the Number Facility Test. In the first experiment, 30 adults completed a baseline version of the Number Facility Test; performed standard squats, Superbrain Yoga, and a rest trial (counterbalanced); and were re-administered the Number Facility Test after each task. A nonparametric Quade test showed no significant difference in outcome measures (p = .99, Kendall’s W = .005). In the second experiment, 30 adults completed a baseline version of the Number Facility Test, performed standard squats and 2 alternative forms of Superbrain Yoga (counterbalanced), and were re-administered the Number Facility Test after each task. A Quade test indicated no significant difference in outcome measures (p = .19, Kendall’s W = .086). These results provide no support for the claims made for Superbrain Yoga. However, this research cannot exclude the possibility that alternative forms of Superbrain Yoga might be effective or that it might have an effect on cognitive skills not captured by the Number Facility Test.
Two studies of Superbrain Yoga’s potential effect on academic performance based on the Number Facility Test.

Helping children with various diagnoses

The book also claims that Superbrain Yoga exercise "show[s] dramatic improvements" in children with any one of several diagnoses, such as Autism. The study Superbrain Yoga in Children with Autism and ADHD (unfortunately, it does not look peer reviewed) looked at four people:

  • MT is an autistic 6-year old twin boy

  • RT is a seven year-old boy with a diagnosis of attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder and pervasive developmental disorder

  • JT is MT’s twin brother[...] He has been diagnosed with dyslexia and found to be emotionally disturbed

  • BC is a 7 year-old boy with the diagnosis of attention deficit disorder and traumatic brain injury. He was born with enlarged ventricles and missing a corpus collosum, the part of the brain connecting the left and right sides

The results were apparently good in all four boys:

With the use of regular Superbrain Yoga, the children are calmer and more focused. Overall improvement is shown in all areas including function and behavior; interacting with the environment with more success.

However there are several very major problems with this study that I can see right away:

  • Possible bias. The author is apparently affiliated with "The Center for Pranic Healing", and "Prana" is some sort of Hindu thing that "includ[es] yoga, Indian medicine, and martial arts, [and] comprises all cosmic energy". This looks like conflict of interest to me, since
  • Tiny sample size. Four is not enough to make any sort of solid statistical conclusion. In this case, it's not even four children with comparable diagnoses. And all four children were boys. It's not even clear to me how they picked them. (Convenience sample? I don't know.)
  • Lack of control. Was it Superbrain Yoga or something else that caused the changes? Because there was no control group, I'm not convinced that Superbrain Yoga is the root of the change. Did the boys just mature a little with time? (Surely they're getting other types of therapy besides Superbrain Yoga?) Maybe regular deep breathing would show a similar effect?

Due to these problems, I believe the results found in this paper cannot be trusted.


I'll have to see if I can find all the studies referenced in the foreword of the book.

This must be Study 1, but I'm still trying to see how the numbers in the book match up with the number in the paper. Unfortunately, it doesn't look to be peer reviewed.

Study 5 might be this one. I'm not an EEG expert, so I'm not sure what to make of it. It does, however, give an important piece of information: "The super brain yoga is well known in south India by the name of Thoppukaranam and Ganeshasana in the northern region of India as well" (emphasis in original). It's likely that there is more research done of the technique under these names.

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    The study with ADHD is not only not peer reviewed, it has no control group and is poorly designed in general. Having researched Brain Gym (a similarly bullshit program) during my masters in education, I can tell you that the only positive results from these types of programs are from studies that have no control group. When there is a similar control group that performs equivalent levels of physical activity, it is impossible to distinguish the effect of such programs from physical exercises such as running, dodgeball, etc. It's the physical effort that has these effects, not Superbrain Yoga. – Dungarth Apr 25 '18 at 2:10
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    Regarding the EEG study... While it is true that the t-value shows that the pre- and post-test averages are statistically different, they also correlate very strongly (R=0.957) with each other. Meaningfully, almost 92% of the variance in the post-test can be explained by the pre-test results, meaning that the training program explains very little of the observed results. Furthermore, less than half of the training regimen is based on Superbrain Yoga, meaning that the results are more likely to be explained by the meditation and relaxation parts, which are actually known to help people focus... – Dungarth Apr 25 '18 at 2:22
  • One more problem on top of your other three: no prior plausibility! Step back a little and ask yourself what would be the mechanism of action here. Maybe squats or maybe mere exercise can temporarily alter cognitive function. But the study author has all the work to do to prove this unlikely hypothesis! It's clear the work hasn't been done. And the lack of plausibility means the evidence will have to be truly outstanding and replicated. – geoO May 11 '18 at 13:07

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