The mental-attention Tai Chi effect with older adults.

Author: Kim TH1, Pascual-Leone J2, Johnson J2, Tamim H3
Affiliation: <sup>1</sup>School of Kinesiology and Health Science, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontorio, M3J 1P3, Canada. <sup>2</sup>Department of Psychology, York University, Toronto, M3J 1P3, Canada. <sup>3</sup>School of Kinesiology and Health Science, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontorio, M3J 1P3, Canada.
Conference/Journal: BMC Psychol.
Date published: 2016 May 31
Other: Volume ID: 4 , Issue ID: 1 , Pages: 29 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1186/s40359-016-0137-0. , Word Count: 241

BACKGROUND: Tai Chi practice has some fitness, wellness, and general cognitive effects in older adults. However, benefits of Tai Chi on specific mental-attentional executive processes have not been investigated previously. We studied older Canadian adults of Chinese and non-Chinese origin and from low socioeconomic areas.

METHODS: Sixty-four adults (51-87 years old) took part in a 16-week Tai Chi program. There were two groups: Chinese-background (nā€‰=ā€‰35) and Non-Chinese-background (nā€‰=ā€‰29). They received four mental-attention executive tasks before and after the 16-week period. These tasks measured visuospatial reasoning, mental-attentional activation (working memory), attentional inhibition, and balance between these attention factors (field-dependence-independence).

RESULTS: Chinese participants showed significant gain on Figural Intersections Task (mental-attentional capacity), Antisaccade (attentional inhibition), and Matrix Reasoning (fluid intelligence measure). Both groups evidenced gain on the Water Level Task (attentional balance).

CONCLUSIONS: These gains suggest that Tai Chi can improve mental-attentional vigilance and executive control, when practitioners are sufficiently motivated to pursue this practice, and apply themselves (as our Chinese participants seem to have done). We found that Tai Chi enhanced mental attentional executives in the Chinese sample. The largely negative results with Non-Chinese participants might be explained by less strong motivation and by the relatively short Tai Chi practice period, which contrasts with the prior familiarity with Tai Chi of the Chinese participants.

KEYWORDS: Attentional balance; Attentional inhibition; Field-dependence-independence; Mental-attention; Tai Chi; Working memory

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