Effects and mechanisms of Tai Chi on mild cognitive impairment and early-stage dementia: a scoping review

Author: Nibras Jasim#1, Darsiha Balakirishnan#2, Han Zhang3, Genevieve Z Steiner-Lim4, Diana Karamacoska4, Guo-Yan Yang5
1 School of Psychology, Western Sydney University, Penrith, NSW, 2751, Australia.
2 School of Medical Science, Western Sydney University, Penrith, NSW, 2751, Australia.
3 School of Acupuncture and Massage, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Beijing, 100029, China.
4 NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University, Penrith, NSW, 2751, Australia.
5 NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University, Penrith, NSW, 2751, Australia. e.yang@westernsydney.edu.au.
Conference/Journal: Syst Rev
Date published: 2023 Oct 28
Other: Volume ID: 12 , Issue ID: 1 , Pages: 200 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1186/s13643-023-02358-3. , Word Count: 331

Dementia is associated with cognitive and functional decline that significantly impacts quality of life. There is currently no cure for dementia, thus, it is important to manage dementia in the early stages and delay deterioration. Previous studies have documented a range of health benefits of Tai Chi in people with early-stage dementia, however, none have systematically integrated these effects with their underlying mechanisms. The aims of this study were to (1) identify the neurocognitive, psychological, and physical health benefits of Tai Chi oi people with early-stage dementia, and (2) explore the underlying mechanisms of these effects.

We searched systematic reviews (SRs) and randomised control trials (RCTs) on Tai Chi for adults aged 50 years and older with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or early-stage dementia in MEDLINE, PubMed, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, and major Chinese databases. No language or publication restrictions were applied. Risk of bias was assessed.

Eight SRs with meta-analyses and 6 additional published RCTs revealed inconsistent findings of Tai Chi on improving global cognitive function, attention and executive function, memory and language, and perceptual-motor function. There was no significant between-group difference in depressive symptoms. The results from the RCTs showed that Tai Chi can reduce arthritis pain and slow the progress of dementia. No studies on MCI or early-stage dementia investigating the underlying mechanisms of Tai Chi were identified. Instead, nine mechanistic studies on healthy adults were included. These suggested that Tai Chi may improve memory and cognition via increased regional brain activity, large-scale network functional connectivity, and regional grey matter volume.

The effects of Tai Chi on neurocognitive outcomes in people with MCI and early-stage dementia are still inconclusive. Further high-quality clinical trials and mechanistic studies are needed to understand if and how Tai Chi may be applied as a successful intervention to delay deterioration and improve the quality of life in people with an increased risk of cognitive decline.

Keywords: Dementia; Mild cognitive impairment (MCI); Neurocognition; Systematic review; Tai Chi.

PMID: 37891692 PMCID: PMC10612170 DOI: 10.1186/s13643-023-02358-3