Regular Tai Chi Practice Is Associated With Improved Memory as Well as Structural and Functional Alterations of the Hippocampus in the Elderly

Author: Chunlin Yue1, Qian Yu2, Yanjie Zhang2, Fabian Herold3, Jian Mei1, Zhaowei Kong4, Stephane Perrey5, Jiao Liu6, Notger G Müller3, Zonghao Zhang1, Yuliu Tao1, Arthur Kramer7,8, Benjamin Becker9, Liye Zou2,10
Author Information:
1 Department of Physical Education, Soochow University, Suzhou, China.
2 Exercise and Mental Health Laboratory, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, China.
3 Research Group Neuroprotection, German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), Leipziger, Germany.
4 Faculty of Education, University of Macau, Macao, China.
5 EuroMov Digital Health in Motion, University of Montpellier, Montpellier, France.
6 National-Local Joint Engineering Research Center of Rehabilitation Medicine Technology, Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fuzhou, China.
7 Department of Psychology, Center for Cognitive and Brain Health, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, United States.
8 Beckman Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, United States.
9 Ministry of Education (MOE) Key Laboratory for Neuroinformation, The Clinical Hospital of Chengdu Brain Science Institute, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu, China.
10 Institute of Mental Health, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, China.
Conference/Journal: Front Aging Neurosci
Date published: 2020 Oct 29
Other: Volume ID: 12 , Pages: 586770 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2020.586770. , Word Count: 216

The current study aimed at comparing the effects of Tai Chi (a motor-cognitive exercise) with walking (an exercise without cognitive demands) on cognitive performance, brain structure, and brain function in the elderly.

This cross-sectional study included 42 healthy elderly women within two groups: Tai Chi (n = 20; mean age = 62.90 ± 2.38 years) and brisk walking exercise (n = 22; mean age = 63.27 ± 3.58 years). All the participants underwent a cognitive assessment via the Montreal Cognitive Assessment and brain structural and resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI) assessments.

Episodic memory in the Tai Chi group was superior to that of the walking group. Higher gray matter density in the inferior and medial temporal regions (including the hippocampus) and higher ReHo in temporal regions (specifically the fusiform gyrus and hippocampus) were found in the Tai Chi group. Significant partial correlations were found between the gray matter density of the left hippocampus and episodic memory in the whole sample. Significant partial correlations were observed between the ReHo in left hippocampus, left parahippocampal, left fusiform, and delayed memory task, which was observed among all subjects.

The present study suggests that long-term Tai Chi practice may improve memory performance via remodeling the structure and function of the hippocampus.

Keywords: Tai Chi; delayed memory; gray matter density; regional homogeneity; walking.

PMID: 33192481 PMCID: PMC7658399 DOI: 10.3389/fnagi.2020.586770