Enhanced Integrity of White Matter Microstructure in Mind-Body Practitioners: A Whole-Brain Diffusion Tensor Imaging Study

Author: Yingrong Xie1,2, Kelong Cai3, Jingang Dai4, Gaoxia Wei1,2
1 CAS Key Laboratory of Behavioral Science, Institute of Psychology, Beijing 100101, China.
2 Department of Psychology, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China.
3 College of Physical Education, Yangzhou University, Yangzhou 225127, China.
4 Experimental Research Center, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, National Chinese Medicine Experts Inheritance Office of Song Jun, Beijing 100700, China.
Conference/Journal: Brain Sci
Date published: 2023 Apr 20
Other: Volume ID: 13 , Issue ID: 4 , Pages: 691 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3390/brainsci13040691. , Word Count: 171

Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) is an increasingly popular multimodal mind-body practice with potential cognitive benefits, yet the neurobiological mechanisms underlying these effects, particularly in relation to brain white matter (WM) microstructure, remain largely unknown. In this study, we used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and the attention network test (ANT) to compare 22 TCC practitioners and 18 healthy controls. We found extensive differences in fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (AD), and radial diffusivity (RD) between the two groups. Specifically, TCC practitioners had significantly different diffusion metrics in the corticospinal tract (CST), fornix (FX)/stria terminalis (ST), and cerebral peduncle (CP). We also observed a significant correlation between increased FA values in the right CP and ANT performance in TCC practitioners. Our findings suggest that optimized regional WM microstructure may contribute to the complex information processing associated with TCC practice, providing insights for preventing cognitive decline and treating neurological disorders with cognitive impairment in clinical rehabilitation.

Keywords: Tai Chi Chuan; diffusion tensor imaging; factional anisotropy; white matter.

PMID: 37190656 PMCID: PMC10136990 DOI: 10.3390/brainsci13040691