Tai Chi practice enables prefrontal cortex bilateral activation and gait performance prioritization during dual-task negotiating obstacle in older adults

Author: Yan Chen1,2, Aiying Wan1, Min Mao3, Wei Sun1, Qipeng Song1, Dewei Mao1,2
1 College of Sport and Health, Shandong Sport University, Jinan, Shandong, China.
2 School of Kinesiology, Shanghai University of Sport, Shanghai, China.
3 School of Nursing and Rehabilitation, Cheeloo College of Medicine, Shandong University, Jinan, Shandong, China.
Conference/Journal: Front Aging Neurosci
Date published: 2022 Nov 18
Other: Volume ID: 14 , Pages: 1000427 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2022.1000427. , Word Count: 283

With aging, the cognitive function of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) declined, postural control weakened, and fall risk increased. As a mind-body exercise, regular Tai Chi practice could improve postural control and effectively prevent falls; however, underlying brain mechanisms remained unclear, which were shed light on by analyzing the effect of Tai Chi on the PFC in older adults by means of functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).

36 healthy older adults without Tai Chi experience were divided randomly into Tai Chi group and Control group. The experiment was conducted four times per week for 16 weeks; 27 participants remained and completed the experiment. Negotiating obstacle task (NOT) and negotiating obstacle with cognitive task (NOCT) were performed pre- and post-intervention, and Brodmann area 10 (BA10) was detected using fNIRS for hemodynamic response. A three-dimensional motion capture system measured walking speed.

After intervention in the Tai Chi group under NOCT, the HbO2 concentration change value (ΔHbO2) in BA10 was significantly greater (right BA10: p = 0.002, left BA10: p = 0.001), walking speed was significantly faster (p = 0.040), and dual-task cost was significantly lower than pre-intervention (p = 0.047). ΔHbO2 in BA10 under NOCT was negatively correlated with dual-task cost (right BA10: r = -0.443, p = 0.021, left BA10: r = -0.448, p = 0.019). There were strong negative correlations between ΔHbO2 and ΔHbR under NOCT either pre-intervention (left PFC r = -0.841, p < 0.001; right PFC r = -0.795, p < 0.001) or post-intervention (left PFC r = -0.842, p < 0.001; right PFC r = -0.744, p < 0.001).

Tai Chi practice might increase the cognitive resources in older adults through the PFC bilateral activation to prioritize gait performance during negotiating obstacles under a dual-task condition.

Keywords: Tai Chi; dual-task; functional near-infrared spectroscopy; negotiating obstacle; older adult; prefrontal cortex.

PMID: 36466597 PMCID: PMC9716214 DOI: 10.3389/fnagi.2022.1000427