Mind-Body Exercise Modulates Locus Coeruleus and Ventral Tegmental Area Functional Connectivity in Individuals With Mild Cognitive Impairment

Author: Jiao Liu1,2,3,4, Jing Tao1,4,5, Rui Xia1, Moyi Li1, Maomao Huang1, Shuzhen Li1, Xiangli Chen6, Georgia Wilson3, Joe Park3, Guohua Zheng7, Lidian Chen1, Jian Kong3
1 College of Rehabilitation Medicine, Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fuzhou, China.
2 National-Local Joint Engineering Research Center of Rehabilitation Medicine Technology, Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fuzhou, China.
3 Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA, United States.
4 Traditional Chinese Medicine Rehabilitation Research Center of State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fuzhou, China.
5 Key Laboratory of Orthopedics & Traumatology of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Rehabilitation, Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ministry of Education, Fuzhou, China.
6 Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, United States.
7 School of Nursing and Health Management, Shanghai University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Shanghai, China.
Conference/Journal: Front Aging Neurosci
Date published: 2021 Jun 14
Other: Volume ID: 13 , Pages: 646807 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2021.646807. , Word Count: 285

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a common global health problem. Recently, the potential of mind-body intervention for MCI has drawn the interest of investigators. This study aims to comparatively explore the modulation effect of Baduanjin, a popular mind-body exercise, and physical exercise on the cognitive function, as well as the norepinephrine and dopamine systems using the resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) method in patients with MCI. 69 patients were randomized to the Baduanjin, brisk walking, or healthy education control group for 6 months. The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were applied at baseline and at the end of the experiment. Results showed that (1) compared to the brisk walking, the Baduanjin significantly increased MoCA scores; (2) Baduanjin significantly increased the right locus coeruleus (LC) and left ventral tegmental area (VTA) rsFC with the right insula and right amygdala compared to that of the control group; and the right anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) compared to that of the brisk walking group; (3) the increased right LC-right insula rsFC and right LC-right ACC rsFC were significantly associated with the corresponding MoCA score after 6-months of intervention; (4) both exercise groups experienced an increased effective connectivity from the right ACC to the left VTA compared to the control group; and (5) Baduanjin group experienced an increase in gray matter volume in the right ACC compared to the control group. Our results suggest that Baduanjin can significantly modulate intrinsic functional connectivity and the influence of the norepinephrine (LC) and dopamine (VTA) systems. These findings may shed light on the mechanisms of mind-body intervention and aid the development of new treatments for MCI.

Keywords: Baduanjin; locus coeruleus; mild cognitive impairment; resting state functional connectivity; ventral tegmental area.

PMID: 34194314 PMCID: PMC8236862 DOI: 10.3389/fnagi.2021.646807