Tai Chi training for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: A feasibility trial in college students

Author: Alexander K Converse1, Bruce P Barrett2, Betty A Chewning3, Peter M Wayne4
Affiliation: <sup>1</sup> Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States. Electronic address: akconverse@wisc.edu. <sup>2</sup> Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States. <sup>3</sup> School of Pharmacy, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States. <sup>4</sup> Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women&#39;s Hospital, United States.
Conference/Journal: Complement Ther Med
Date published: 2020 Sep 1
Other: Volume ID: 53 , Pages: 102538 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102538. , Word Count: 268

Many young adults are affected by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and often desire non-pharmacological treatment options. Mind-body techniques might serve as complementary therapies to first-line stimulant medications, but studies are limited. Tai Chi is an increasingly popular practice that integrates movement with cognitive skills relevant to ADHD. We performed a feasibility trial of Tai Chi training in undergraduates to inform the design of a fully powered randomized controlled trial (RCT).

Undergraduates with ADHD were recruited, screened, enrolled, and assessed at baseline. They were assigned to three parallel seven-week intervention arms, Tai Chi, Active Control (cardio-aerobic fitness), and Inactive Control (no contact), with follow-up assessments. Feasibility of a larger clinical trial was evaluated, especially with respect to enrollment and retention. Additionally, potential clinical outcome measures were examined for practicality and reliability.

21 participants were assessed at baseline and 19 at follow-up (90 % retention). The primary clinical outcome measure, self-reported inattention symptoms (Conners' CAARS-S:L DSM-IV Inattentive Symptoms subscale), exhibited good test-retest reliability in controls (r = 0.87, n = 10) and correlated with reduced mindfulness (FFMQ acting with awareness subscale) at baseline (r = -0.74, n = 20). Class attendance and self-reported daily practice time were variable. Randomization to group classes was hindered by the college students' restricted schedules.

The high retention rate and good data quality suggest that an RCT of Tai Chi for ADHD is feasible. Further measures are identified to improve enrollment rates, adherence, and randomization procedures. Future work might extend to other young adult populations and high school students.

Keywords: ADHD treatment; College students; Dopamine; Mind-body; Tai Chi; Young adults.

PMID: 33066865 PMCID: PMC7573198 (available on 2021-09-01) DOI: 10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102538