Hot Yoga, Neuro-Ophthalmology, and Perceptual Neuroscience

Seems like an odd combination of topics, until you find them embodied in one person: Mithu Storoni, M.D., Ph.D.

Mithu Storoni

From her bio:  “Mithu Storoni is a University of Cambridge-trained medical doctor, certified in ophthalmology, and also holds a PhD in neuro-ophthalmology.  She has undertaken research in neuro-ophthalmology and perceptual neuroscience at Cambridge, in London, and at Harvard Medical School.  She speaks several languages and is a teacher of hot yoga.”

In the introduction to her book, Stress Proof, Dr. Storoni recounts how she became interested in vision and, ultimately in hot yoga.  As and undergraduate she was intrigued by the malleability of the brain when she learned how Nobel Laureates David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel demonstrated that the brain begins as a tabula rasa upon which the world sculpts itself.  Her earliest co-authored paper was in Experimental Brain Research (2007) on the dissociation between the roles of vergence and binocular disparity cues in the control of prehension.  In 2011 she had the privilege of co-authoring a paper with Dr. Hubel on the nature of migraine auras.


During her medical internship, Dr. Storoni developed an autoimmune condition that served as an annoying antenna for the level of stress in her life.  The moment the stress intensified, so did the condition.  She decided to take up hot yoga as a hobby to address this while she was studying pupillometry in London.  The pupil is a direct window to the autonomic nervous system, dilating when the sympathetic input is intensified, which is why your pupils enlarge when you’re stressed.  She discovered that over the course of a few months of practicing hot yoga, her own baseline pupil measurements appeared to change.  This suggested the possibility of a reduction in her baseline sympathetic nervous system activity.  As this occurred, her autoimmune condition waned until it disappeared completely.

Dr. Storoni is featured as an expert in the documentary film The Science of Yoga by Uplift Connect, from the 8:10 – 10:40 mark:

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