06:30pm Sunday 22 October 2017

Tai Chi Increases Brain Size and Benefits Cognition in Randomized Controlled Trial of Chinese Elderly

Findings were based on an 8-month randomized controlled trial comparing those who practiced Tai Chi to a group who received no intervention.  The same trial showed increases in brain volume and more limited cognitive improvements in a group that participated in lively discussions three times per week over the same time period.

Previous trials have shown increases in brain volume in people who participated in aerobic exercise, and in one of these trials, an improvement in memory was seen.  However, this was the first trial to show that a less aerobic form of exercise, Tai Chi, as well as stimulating discussion led to similar increases in brain volume and improvements on psychological tests of memory and thinking. 

The group that did not participate in the interventions showed brain shrinkage over the same time period, consistent with what generally has been observed for persons in their 60s and 70s.

Numerous studies have shown that dementia and the syndrome of gradual cognitive deterioration that precedes it is associated with increasing shrinkage of the brain as nerve cells and their connections are gradually lost.  

“The ability to reverse this trend with physical exercise and increased mental activity implies that it may be possible to delay the onset of dementia in older persons through interventions that have many physical and mental health benefits,” said lead author Dr. James Mortimer, professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida College of Public Health.

Research suggests that aerobic exercise is associated with increased production of brain growth factors.  It remains to be determined whether forms of exercise like Tai Chi that include an important mental exercise component could lead to similar changes in the production of these factors.  “If this is shown, then it would provide strong support to the concept of “use it or lose it” and encourage seniors to stay actively involved both intellectually and physically,” Dr. Mortimer said.

One question raised by the research is whether sustained physical and mental exercise can contribute to the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common dementing illness.

“Epidemiologic studies have shown repeatedly that individuals who engage in more physical exercise or are more socially active have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Mortimer said.  “The current findings suggest that this may be a result of growth and preservation of critical regions of the brain affected by this illness.”

REF:   James A. Mortimer, Ding Ding, Amy R. Borenstein, Charles DeCarli, Qihao Guo, Yougui Wu, Qianhua Zhao, Shugang Chu. Changes in Brain Volume and Cognition in a Randomized Trial of Exercise and Social Interaction in a Community-Based Sample of Non-Demented Chinese Elders, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease  2012; 30 (4), published by IOS Press.

ABOUT THE JOURNAL OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (www.j-alz.com) is an international multidisciplinary journal to facilitate progress in understanding the etiology, pathogenesis, epidemiology, genetics, behavior, treatment and psychology of Alzheimer’s disease. Groundbreaking research that has appeared in the journal includes novel therapeutic targets, mechanisms of disease and clinical trial outcomes. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has an Impact Factor of 4.261 according to Thomson Reuters’ 2011 edition of Journal Citation Reports. It is ranked #19 on the Index Copernicus Top 100 Journal List. The Journal is published by IOS Press (www.iospress.com).

ABOUT IOS PRESS

Commencing its publishing activities in 1987, IOS Press (www.iospress.com) serves the information needs of scientific and medical communities worldwide. IOS Press now (co-)publishes over 100 international journals and about 130 book titles each year on subjects ranging from computer sciences and mathematics to medicine and the natural sciences.

IOS Press continues its rapid growth, embracing new technologies for the timely dissemination of information. All journals are available electronically and an e-book platform was launched in 2005.

Headquartered in Amsterdam with satellite offices in the USA, Germany, India and China, IOS Press has established several strategic co-publishing initiatives. Notable acquisitions included Delft University Press in 2005 and Millpress Science Publishers in 2008.

ABOUT USF HEALTH

USF Health’s mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the College of Pharmacy, the School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences; and the USF Physician’s Group. The University of South Florida is a global research university ranked 50th in the nation by the National Science Foundation for both federal and total research expenditures among all U.S. universities.

Contact: 
James Mortimer
Phone:  (813) 857-3163
Email:  jmortime@health.usf.edu


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