February 21, 2017 - Cognitive impairment is one of the most common problems affecting older adults. In a joint study by Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fuzhou, China, Harvard Medical School and University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, U.K., a group of researchers investigated whether Tai Chi and Baduanjin Qigong can modulate mental control function and the resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) of the cognitive control network in older adults.
Participants in the two exercise groups practiced either Tai Chi or Baduanjin for 12 weeks, and those in the control group received basic health education. Memory tests and MRI scans were conducted at baseline and at the end of the study. Seed-based (bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, DLPFC) rsFC analysis was performed.
The researchers found that compared to the controls, 1) both Tai Chi and Baduanjin groups demonstrated significant improvements in mental control function; 2) the Tai Chi group showed a significant decrease in rsFC between the DLPFC and the left superior frontal gyrus (SFG) and anterior cingulate cortex; and 3) the Baduanjin group showed a significant decrease in rsFC between the DLPFC and the left putamen and insula. Mental control improvement was negatively associated with rsFC DLPFC-putamen changes across all subjects.
These findings, published in the February, 2017 issue of Scientific Reports, demonstrate the potential of Tai Chi and Baduanjin exercises in preventing cognitive decline.