Improve Attention in Older Individuals with Exercise and Mindfulness

Improve Attention in Older Individuals with Exercise and Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“engaging in mindfulness meditation training improves the maintenance of goal-directed visuospatial attention and may be a useful strategy for counteracting cognitive decline associated with aging.” – Peter Malinowski

 

One of the primary effects of mindfulness training is an improvement in the ability to pay attention to the task at hand and ignore interfering stimuli. This is an important consequence of mindfulness training and produces improvements in thinking, reasoning, and creativity. The importance of heightened attentional ability to the individual’s ability to navigate the demands of complex modern life cannot be overstated. It helps in school, at work, in relationships, or simply driving a car. As important as attention is, it’s surprising that little is known about the mechanisms by which mindfulness improves attention

 

There is evidence that mindfulness training improves attention by altering the brain. It appears That mindfulness training increases the size, connectivity, and activity of areas of the brain that are involved in paying attention. A common method to study the activity of the nervous system is to measure the electrical signal at the scalp above brain regions. Changes in this activity are measurable with mindfulness training.

 

One method to observe attentional processing in the brain is to measure the changes in the electrical activity that occur in response to specific stimuli. These are called event-related, or evoked, potentials or ERPs. The signal following a stimulus changes over time. The fluctuations of the signal after specific periods of time are thought to measure different aspects of the nervous system’s processing of the stimulus. The N2 response in the evoked potential (ERP) is a negative going electrical response occurring between a 1 to 3 tenths of a second following the target stimulus presentation. The N2 component is thought to reflect cognitive control. The P3 response is a positive going electrical response occurring between a 3 to 6 tenths of a second following the target. The P3 component is thought to reflect attentional processing.

 

In today’s Research News article “Behavioral and ERP Correlates of Long-Term Physical and Mental Training on a Demanding Switch Task.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7940199/ ) Burgos and colleagues recruited healthy adults aged 44-65 years. They were separated into groups of participants who practiced for at least 5 years either Tai Chi, Meditation, aerobic exercise, meditation and exercise, or were sedentary. The participants performed a visuospatial task switch test that required the participants to respond to the position of a dot on a screen with the same or opposite hand or to switch back and forth between the two after 2 trials. This measures executive attention. As they were performing the task the electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded and the evoked potentials to the dot recorded.

 

They found that on the visuospatial task switch test the Tai Chi and Meditation plus exercise groups performed best, the aerobic exercise group intermediate, and the sedentary group worst. Performance was measured by the reaction times on the switch trials and also on the proportionate change in reaction times on switch trials. In the evoked potentials in the frontal and parietal cortical areas, the groups that had mental plus physical training (Tai Chi and Meditation plus exercise groups) had significantly larger N2 responses on switch trials than the meditation or exercise alone groups. They also found that the larger the N2 response the better the performance on the switch task.

 

These are interesting results. But the groups were composed of people who chose to engage in these differing activities and the groups may be composed of people who differ in other ways other than the chosen activity. It would be best in future research if random assignment and training were used. Nevertheless, the results suggest that executive attention is best in people who practice mental and physical exercises. These are superior to either alone and particularly superior to being sedentary.  It was not studied here, but the better performance in attentional ability would predict better overall performance in life and resistance to the mental decline with aging.

 

Both the performance on the task and the N2 responses reflect better executive control of attention. This means that the participants who performed both mindfulness and physical exercise improved their ability to control attention. Mindfulness practices such as Tai Chi and meditation are known to alter the brain and improve attention. But the reason why exercise supplements these benefits is unknown. It is possible that exercise isn’t responsible for improvement but that sedentariness is responsible for deterioration and exercise acts to prevent this deterioration. Nevertheless, the results are clear mindfulness plus physical activity alters the brain in such a way as to improve the individual’s ability to control attention.

 

So, improve attention in older individuals with exercise and mindfulness.

 

mindfulness may be a way to improve our cognitive control as we age by teaching us to improve our ability to focus our attention on a particular task.” – Holy Tiret

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Burgos, P. I., Cruz, G., Hawkes, T., Rojas-Sepúlveda, I., & Woollacott, M. (2021). Behavioral and ERP Correlates of Long-Term Physical and Mental Training on a Demanding Switch Task. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 569025. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.569025

 

Abstract

Physical and mental training are associated with positive effects on executive functions throughout the lifespan. However, evidence of the benefits of combined physical and mental regimes over a sedentary lifestyle remain sparse. The goal of this study was to investigate potential mechanisms, from a source-resolved event-related-potential perspective, that could explain how practicing long-term physical and mental exercise can benefit neural processing during the execution of an attention switching task. Fifty-three healthy community volunteers who self-reported long-term practice of Tai Chi (n = 10), meditation + exercise (n = 16), simple aerobics (n = 15), or a sedentary lifestyle (n = 12), aged 47.8 ± 14.6 (SD) were included in this analysis. All participants undertook high-density electroencephalography recording during a switch paradigm. Our results indicate that people who practice physical and mental exercise perform better in a task-switching paradigm. Our analysis revealed an additive effect of the combined practice of physical and mental exercise over physical exercise only. In addition, we confirmed the participation of frontal, parietal and cingulate areas as generators of event-related-potential components (N2-like and P3-like) commonly associated to the performance of switch tasks. Particularly, the N2-like component of the parietal and frontal domains showed significantly greater amplitudes in the exercise and mental training groups compared with aerobics and sedentary groups. Furthermore, we showed better performance associated with greater N2-like amplitudes. Our multivariate analysis revealed that activity type was the most relevant factor to explain the difference between groups, with an important influence of age, and body mass index, and with small effects of educational years, cardiovascular capacity, and sex. These results suggest that chronic combined physical and mental training may confer significant benefits to executive function in normally aging adults, probably through more efficient early attentional processing. Future experimental studies are needed to confirm our results and understand the mechanisms on parieto-frontal networks that contribute to the cognitive improvement associated with practicing combined mental and aerobic exercise, while carefully controlling confounding factors, such as age and body mass index.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7940199/

 

 

Improve Physical and Mental Well-Being with Mindfulness Meditation-Based Interventions

Improve Physical and Mental Well-Being with Mindfulness Meditation-Based Interventions

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness meditation is related to improved mental health across a variety of disorders, including different anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and chronic pain symptom reduction.” – Jennifer Wolkin

 

Over the last several decades, research and anecdotal experiences have accumulated an impressive evidential case that the development of mindfulness has positive benefits for the individual’s mental, physical, and spiritual life. Mindfulness appears to be beneficial both for healthy people and for people suffering from a myriad of mental and physical illnesses. It appears to be beneficial across ages, from children to the elderly. And it appears to be beneficial across genders, personalities, race, and ethnicity. The breadth and depth of benefits is unprecedented. There is no other treatment or practice that has been shown to come anyway near the range of mindfulness’ positive benefits.

 

Over the last few decades, a vast amount of research has been published on the benefits of mindfulness practices on the mental and physical health of the practitioners. Many reviews, summarizations, and meta-analyses have been performed of these studies. So, it makes sense to step back and summarize what these meta-analyses have found.

 

In today’s Research News article “The empirical status of mindfulness-based interventions: A systematic review of 44 meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://centerhealthyminds.org/assets/files-publications/Goldberg-the-empirical-status.pdf ) Goldberg and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of previous meta-analyses of published randomized controlled studies on benefits of sustained meditation practices on mental and physical well-being. They identified 44 published meta-analyses, representing 336 randomized controlled trials, which included a total of 30,483 participants.

 

They report that the meta-analyses of published randomized controlled trials found that sustained mindfulness meditation practices in comparison to passive, no treatment, controls had a very wide range of beneficial effects across a wide range of participants from children to the elderly, over a variety of programs from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to mobile health, over a variety of psychological issues from anxiety to psychoses, and over a wide range of diseases from chronic pain to cancer. These effects were present immediately post treatment and at later follow-ups (an average of 7 months after treatment).

 

Comparison of these mindfulness meditation practices to active control conditions such as attentional controls to evidence-based treatments, resulted in reduced effect sizes and many were non-significant. Mindfulness meditation practices had significantly superior effects than active controls for adults, children, employees, and health care professionals/trainees but not for students. They were superior for psychiatric disorders, substance use, smoking, and depression but not for physical health conditions, pain, weight/eating-related conditions, cancer, or anxiety. They were superior for stress, and psychiatric symptoms but not for sleep, physical health symptoms, objective measures, or physiological measures.

 

These findings are essentially summaries of summaries and are based upon a wide variety of different researchers, methodologies, cultures, and time frames. Yet, the results are fairly consistent. In comparison to doing nothing, passive controls, mindfulness meditation practices are very beneficial for a wide range of physical and psychological issues over a wide range of ages. But these practices when compared to other types of treatments, are less effective and at times not superior. Nevertheless, this meta-analysis of meta-analyses paints a clear picture of the wide-ranging efficacy of mindfulness meditation practices for the relief of physical and psychological issues. These results verify the unprecedented depth and breadth of benefits of mindfulness meditation practices.

 

So, improve physical and mental well-being with mindfulness meditation-based interventions.

 

Practicing mindfulness exercises can have many possible benefits, including: reduced stress, anxiety and depression, less negative thinking and distraction, and improved mood,” -Mayo Clinic

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Goldberg, S. B., Riordan, K., Sun, S., & Davidson, R. J. (2021). The empirical status of mindfulness-based interventions: A systematic review of 44 meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials. Perspectives on Psychological Science 1–23, DOI: 10.1177/1745691620968771

 

Abstract

In response to questions regarding the scientific basis for mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs), we evaluated their empirical status by systematically reviewing meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). We searched six databases for effect sizes based on ≥4 trials that did not combine passive and active controls. Heterogeneity, moderators, tests of publication bias, risk of bias, and adverse effects were also extracted. Representative effect sizes based on the largest number of studies were identified across a wide range of populations, problems, interventions, comparisons, and outcomes (PICOS). A total of 160 effect sizes were reported in 44 meta-analyses (k=336 RCTs, N=30,483 participants). MBIs showed superiority to passive controls across most PICOS (ds=0.10-0.89). Effects were typically smaller and less often statistically significant when compared to active controls. MBIs were similar or superior to specific active controls and evidence-based treatments. Heterogeneity was typically moderate. Few consistent moderators were found. Results were generally robust to publication bias, although other important sources of bias were identified. Reporting of adverse effects was inconsistent. Statistical power may be lacking in meta-analyses, particularly for comparisons with active controls. As MBIs show promise across some PICOS, future RCTs and meta-analyses should build upon identified strengths and limitations of this literature.

https://centerhealthyminds.org/assets/files-publications/Goldberg-the-empirical-status.pdf

 

Mindfulness is Associated with Medication Adherence in Older Adults

Mindfulness is Associated with Medication Adherence in Older Adults

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Keep a watch…on the faults of the patients, which often make them lie about the taking of things prescribed. For through not taking disagreeable drinks, purgative or other, they sometimes die.” – Hippocrates, Decorum

 

“Integrating mindfulness into our practices may help foster the therapeutic alliance and ultimately medication adherence.” – Michael Ascher

 

In order for prescriptive medications to be effective in treating disease they must be taken. But about 50% of older patients do not take their medications as prescribed and many do not even fill their prescriptions. This is a shockingly high degree of non-compliance that can lead to poorer health and potentially death. Indeed, it has been stated that “increasing the effectiveness of adherence interventions may have a far greater impact on the health of the population than any improvement in specific medical treatments” (R. Brian Haynes). Mindfulness, on the other hand has been shown to be associated with better compliance with therapy and greater health related behaviors. So, it makes sense to study the role of mindfulness in medication adherence in older individuals.

 

In today’s Research News article “Selected psychological predictors of medication adherence in the older adults with chronic diseases.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7729554/ ) Gruszczyńska and colleagues recruited older adults, over 60 year of age, who were diagnosed with a chronic disease. They completed measures of medication adherence, health locus of control, stress coping, and mindfulness.

 

They found that the higher the levels of medication adherence, the higher the levels of internal locus of control, influence of others locus of control, and mindfulness and the lower the levels of emotion-oriented coping and distraction seeking. Regression analysis revealed that the strongest positive predictors of medication adherence were influence of others locus of control, and mindfulness while the most powerful negative predictor was emotion-oriented coping.

 

It should be recognized that this study is correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. But these results make sense as ascribing the control of one’s health to other powerful people would suggest that the individual would be more likely to follow the direction of a physician and comply with the medicinal directions. That people who cope with stress emotionally would not adhere to medicinal directions also make sense as the invocation of strong emotions associated with the stress of the disease would be aversive and lead to avoidding or ignoring medicines associated with the source of stress.

 

Finally, mindfulness was found to be influential on medication adherence. Being more aware of and attentive to the needs of the body should lead to tending to those needs and taking prescribed medications to help. Indeed, mindfulness tends to promote health related behaviors in general. In other words, mindful people tend to do things that are beneficial for their health including taking prescribed medications as directed.

 

Since elderly people taking prescribed medications is one of the single most important contributors to their overall health and longevity, improving adherence is extremely important. Perhaps if training in mindfulness was prescribed along with medications, medication adherence may be improved leading to better health outcomes.

 

So, mindfulness is associated with medication adherence in older adults.

 

“Mindfulness interventions have been proven effective on several predictors of poor adherence (i.e., sleep, cognitive impairment, depression, and stress) and thus hold great potential to improve medication adherence.“ – Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Gruszczyńska, M., Wyszomirska, J., Daniel-Sielańczyk, A., & Bąk-Sosnowska, M. (2020). Selected psychological predictors of medication adherence in the older adults with chronic diseases. Nursing open, 8(1), 317–326. https://doi.org/10.1002/nop2.632

 

Abstract

Aim

The main goal of the study was to assess the significance of selected psychological factors related to the adherence to medication recommendations among the older adults with chronic diseases.

Design

It was designed as a cross‐sectional study, aimed at assessing the importance of selected psychological factors in complying with medication recommendations among older adults.

Methods

The study involved 345 older adults with chronic diseases, assessed the importance of selected psychological factors, such as: health locus of control, stress coping and mindfulness in adhering to medication recommendations older persons. To answer the research questions, we performed frequency analyses, basic descriptive statistics analyses together with the Kolmogorov–Smirnov test, Student’s t tests for independent samples, monofactorial analysis of variance in the intergroup diagram, analysis correlation with the Pearson correlation coefficient, Spearman’s rank correlation ρ analysis and stepwise linear regression analysis.

Results

The study identified psychological predictors of medication adherence, which explained 12% of the variability. An emotion‐oriented coping proved to be the most important factor. Additionally, powerful other health locus of control and mindful attention were shown to have a positive effect.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7729554/

 

Tai Chi Practice Changes the Brain Differently than Walking

Tai Chi Practice Changes the Brain Differently than Walking

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“tai chi appears to improve executive function—the ability to multitask, manage time, and make decisions—in people without any cognitive decline.” – Harvard Health

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. The elderly frequently have problems with attention, thinking, and memory abilities, known as mild cognitive impairment. An encouraging new development is that mindfulness practices such as meditation training and mindful movement practices can significantly reduce these declines in cognitive ability. In addition, it has been found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation,  yoga, and Tai Chi have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners.

 

Tai Chi has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevityTai Chi training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Tai Chi practice has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. Tai Chi has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive functionmemory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain. So, it makes sense to further study the effects of Tai Chi training on the brains of older adults.

 

In today’s Research News article “Differential Effects of Tai Chi Chuan (Motor-Cognitive Training) and Walking on Brain Networks: A Resting-State fMRI Study in Chinese Women Aged 60.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7151113/ ) Yue and colleagues recruited older women (over 60 years of age) who were long-term practitioners of Tai Chi or walking and scanned their brains with functional Magnetic Imaging (fMRI).

 

They examined 3 brain networks, the Default Mode Network, the Sensory Motor Network, and the Visual Network and found significant differences in the functional connectivity within these networks between the Tai Chi and walking groups. This suggests that the two exercises change the brains information processing in these women. They suggest that the brains of the older women went through neuroplastic changes as a result of their practices with different changes in different systems depending on the exercise.

 

There is evidence that physical fitness reduces the likelihood of dementia and Tai Chi practice has been shown to reduce the likelihood or severity of age-related cognitive decline. The observed changes, particularly in the Default Mode Network, which is known to be associated with memory and thinking, may underlie the effectiveness of these exercises in reducing the incidence of age-related cognitive decline and dementia. It remains for future research to determine which of the observed changes in the brains are responsible for retaining mental ability with aging.

 

Tai Chi practice is not strenuous, involves slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion. It can also be practiced without professional supervision and in groups making it inexpensive to deliver and fun to engage in. This makes Tai Chi practice an excellent means to maintain fitness with aging and help maintain a fit mind and body.

 

So, Tai Chi practice changes the brain differently than walking.

 

Scientists . . . found increases in brain volume and improvements on tests of memory and thinking in Chinese seniors who practiced Tai Chi.” – ScienceDaily

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Yue, C., Zhang, Y., Jian, M., Herold, F., Yu, Q., Mueller, P., Lin, J., Wang, G., Tao, Y., Zhang, Z., & Zou, L. (2020). Differential Effects of Tai Chi Chuan (Motor-Cognitive Training) and Walking on Brain Networks: A Resting-State fMRI Study in Chinese Women Aged 60. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland), 8(1), 67. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare8010067

 

Abstract

Background: This cross-sectional study aimed to investigate whether a long-term engagement in different types of physical exercise may influence resting-state brain networks differentially. In particular, we studied if there were differences in resting-state functional connectivity measures when comparing older women who are long-term practitioners of tai chi chuan or walking. Method: We recruited 20 older women who regularly practiced tai chi chuan (TCC group), and 22 older women who walked regularly (walking group). Both the TCC group and the walking group underwent a resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) scan. The acquired rs-fMRI data of all participants were analyzed using independent component analysis. Age and years of education were added as co-variables. Results: There were significant differences in default network, sensory-motor network, and visual network of rs-fMRI between the TCC group and walking group (p < 0.05). Conclusions: The findings of the current study suggested that long-term practice of different types of physical exercises (TCC vs. walking) influenced brain functional networks and brain functional plasticity of elderly women differentially. Our findings encourage further research to investigate whether those differences in resting-state functional connectivity as a function of the type of physical exercise have implications for the prevention of neurological diseases.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7151113/

 

Improve Psychological Health and Quality of Life of Older Adults with Meditative Movement Practices.

Improve Psychological Health and Quality of Life of Older Adults with Meditative Movement Practices.

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindful techniques can help older adults feel a sense of connection to their body. This can be critical for creating optimal health, even as they manage the ongoing changes in their body.” – Karen Fabian

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our cognitive (mental) abilities which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem-solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Research has found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners. Tai Chi and Qigong have also been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. The research findings are accumulating suggesting that a summarization of what has been learned is called for.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Mind-Body Interventions Involving Meditative Movements on Quality of Life, Depressive Symptoms, Fear of Falling and Sleep Quality in Older Adults: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7559727/ ) Weber and colleagues  review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the published randomized controlled studies (RCTs) of the effectiveness of the mind-body practices of Yoga, Tai Chi. Qigong, and Pilates to improve the psychological health and quality of life in the elderly (aged 60 and over). They identified 37 published RCTs, 21 of which employed Tai Chi. 5 Qigong, 10 Yoga, and 3 Pilates.

 

They separated studies employing Tai Chi and Qigong from those employing Yoga and Pilates. They report that the published studies found that all of the meditative movement practices significantly improved the quality of life, physical functioning, and sleep quality and reduced the fear of falling of older adults with small effect sizes. Only the Tai Chi and Qigong practices produced significant improvements in psychological functioning and social functioning while only the Yoga and Pilates produced significant improvements in depression. For Tai Chi and Qigong, they further report that practice occurring 3 or more times per week resulted in larger improvements in quality of life and depression than those with less than 3 practices per week.

 

These findings suggest that meditative movement practices have wide ranging benefits, albeit with relatively small effect sizes, on the physical, psychological, and social functioning of older adults and improve their overall quality of life. These are important benefits for the elderly helping to slow the progressive decline seen with aging. These practices when properly performed and supervised have very few adverse effects. Hence, they should be recommended for aging individuals as safe and effective practices to slow the progressive decline and improve their overall well-being.

 

So, improve psychological health and quality of life of older adults with meditative movement practices.

 

When you age mindfully, you are fully aware and accepting of the challenges that come with the aging process, but you’re also aware of—and seizing—the opportunities that come with being blessed with what I call your ‘longevity bonus,’” – Andrea Brandt.

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Weber, M., Schnorr, T., Morat, M., Morat, T., & Donath, L. (2020). Effects of Mind-Body Interventions Involving Meditative Movements on Quality of Life, Depressive Symptoms, Fear of Falling and Sleep Quality in Older Adults: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(18), 6556. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17186556

 

Abstract

Background: The aim of the present systematic meta-analytical review was to quantify the effects of different mind–body interventions (MBI) involving meditative movements on relevant psychological health outcomes (i.e., quality of life (QoL), depressive symptoms, fear of falling (FoF) and sleep quality) in older adults without mental disorders. Methods: A structured literature search was conducted in five databases (Ovid, PsycINFO, PubMed, SPORTDiscus, Web of Science). Inclusion criteria were: (i) the study was a (cluster) randomized controlled trial, (ii) the subjects were aged ≥59 years without mental illnesses, (iii) an intervention arm performing MBI compared to a non-exercise control group (e.g., wait-list or usual care), (iv) psychological health outcomes related to QoL, depressive symptoms, FoF or sleep quality were assessed and (v) a PEDro score of ≥5. The interventions of the included studies were sub-grouped into Tai Chi/Qigong (TCQ) and Yoga/Pilates (YP). Statistical analyses were conducted using a random-effects inverse-variance model. Results: Thirty-seven randomized controlled trials (RCTs) (comprising 3224 participants) were included. Small to moderate-but-significant overall effect sizes favoring experimental groups (Hedges’ g: 0.25 to 0.71) compared to non-exercise control groups were observed in all outcomes (all p values ≤ 0.007), apart from one subdomain of quality of life (i.e., social functioning, p = 0.15). Interestingly, a significant larger effect on QoL and depressive symptoms with increasing training frequency was found for TCQ (p = 0.03; p = 0.004). Conclusions: MBI involving meditative movements may serve as a promising opportunity to improve psychological health domains such as QoL, depressive symptoms, FoF and sleep quality in older adults. Hence, these forms of exercise may represent potential preventive measures regarding the increase of late-life mental disorders, which need to be further confirmed by future research.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7559727/

 

Decrease Aging Cognitive Decline with Qigong Practice

Decrease Aging Cognitive Decline with Qigong Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“various activities such as Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Meditation, Yoga, Pranayama (breath work) and more can slow down the aging process and also reverse DNA damage.” – Beyond Spiritual Healing

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. The elderly frequently have problems with attention, thinking, and memory abilities, known as mild cognitive impairment. An encouraging new development is that mindfulness practices such as meditation training and mindful movement practices can significantly reduce these declines in cognitive ability. In addition, it has been found that

mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation,  yoga, and Tai Chi have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners.

 

Qigong has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Qigong training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Qigong  practice has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. Qigong has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive functionmemory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain. So, it makes sense to further study the ability of Qigong training to reduce cognitive decline in the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of 1 Year of Qigong Exercise on Cognitive Function Among Older Chinese Adults at Risk of Cognitive Decline: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.546834/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1473550_69_Psycho_20201103_arts_A ) Jin and colleagues recruited healthy elderly adults, over 60 years of age, who did not engage in any mind-body practices like Qigong and randomly assigned them to receive either Qigong practice or stretching practice. Each intervention had 3 weekly training sessions followed by 1-year of at least twice a week 60-minute practice guided with videos and included once a month refresher training. The participants were measured before and after training for cognitive performance and neuropsychological performance.

 

They found that compared to baseline and the stretching group the Qigong participants had significantly higher cognitive performance after the year’s practice including memory, visuospatial ability, and language ability. The number of Qigong participants who were classified as having a mild cognitive impairment declined over the year while the stretching group did not.

 

These results suggest that Qigong practice improves cognitive ability and reduces cognitive decline in the elderly. Age related cognitive is inevitable and greatly reduces the abilities and quality of life of the elderly. Reducing the decline should contribute to greater well-being in aging individuals.

 

These findings suggest that Tai Chi practice is a safe and effective method to reduce the decline in thinking ability with aging. But the story is even better. Qigong is not strenuous, involves slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion. It can also be practiced without professional supervision and in groups making it inexpensive to deliver and fun to engage in. This suggests that Qigong practice should be recommended for the elderly.

 

So, decrease aging cognitive decline with Qigong practice.

 

Qigong can complement Western medicine in many ways to provide better healthcare. For example, qigong has special value for treating chronic conditions and as a preventive medicine, whereas Western medicine has special value for treating acute conditions.” – Qigong Institute

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Jin J, Wu Y, Li S, Jin S, Wang L, Zhang J, Zhou C, Gao Y and Wang Z (2020) Effect of 1 Year of Qigong Exercise on Cognitive Function Among Older Chinese Adults at Risk of Cognitive Decline: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial. Front. Psychol. 11:546834. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.546834

 

ABSTRACT

Background: The rapidly aging Chinese population is showing an increase in age-related illnesses, including mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer disease. The best types of physical activity for the improvement of cognition remain unknown. This study aimed to compare the effectiveness of a tailored qigong exercise with that of stretching exercise in the maintenance of cognitive abilities in Chinese elders at risk of cognitive decline.

Methods: Seventy-four community-dwelling adults aged ≥60 years were screened for eligibility. Using a randomized control group design, participants with scores ≥19 on the Chinese version of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment-Basic (MoCA) were allocated to a 1-year qigong intervention (n = 33) and a stretching control exercise group (n = 33). The primary outcome was the MoCA score, as a measure of global cognitive function, and secondary outcomes were globe cognition and five domain scores on the Chinese version of the Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS). The MoCA and RBANS were administered at baseline and 1 year after intervention to assess the effect of the exercises on cognitive decline.

Results: Twenty-five of 33 (75.8%) participants in the qigong group and 26 of 33 (78.8%) participants in the control group completed the 1-year exercise programs. A bivariate test revealed strong correlation between MoCA and RBANS total scores after the intervention (r = 0.517, p < 0.01). Generalized estimating equations revealed a lower risk of progression of cognitive decline at 1 year in the qigong group than in the control group (odds ratio, 0.314; 95% confidence interval, 0.103–0.961; p = 0.04). Two-way repeated-measures ANOVA followed by post hoc t tests with Bonferroni corrections indicated that MoCA and RBANS scores were significantly higher in the qigong group than in the control group (MoCA and RBANS global cognition, memory, visuospatial/constructional ability, and language, all p < 0.01), with the exception of RBANS attention score (p > 0.05).

Conclusions: One year of qigong practice was significantly superior to stretching exercise not only for the prevention of cognitive decline progression, but also for the improvement of several cognitive functions, among older Chinese adults at risk of cognitive decline.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.546834/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1473550_69_Psycho_20201103_arts_A

 

Unique Brain Activity Registers Internal Attentional States During Meditation

Unique Brain Activity Registers Internal Attentional States During Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Your brain is actually shaped by your thoughts and your behaviors. . . meditation can help boost attention and keep the brain sharp. . .  mindful breath awareness may improve attention and help curb impulsive behavior” – Grace Bullock

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that mindfulness has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. It even improves high level thinking known as executive function and emotion regulation and compassion. One of the primary effects of mindfulness training is an improvement in the ability to pay attention to the task at hand and ignore interfering stimuli. This is an important consequence of mindfulness training and produces improvements in thinking, reasoning, and creativity. The importance of heightened attentional ability to the individual’s ability to navigate the demands of complex modern life cannot be overstated. It helps in school, at work, in relationships, or simply driving a car. As important as attention is, it’s surprising that little is known about the mechanisms by which mindfulness improves attention.

 

There is evidence that mindfulness training improves attention by altering the brain. It appears That mindfulness training increases the size, connectivity, and activity of areas of the brain that are involved in paying attention. But there are various states of attention including meditation-related states: breath attention, mind wandering, and self-referential processing, and control states e.g. attention to feet and listening to ambient sounds. It is not known what changes occur in the brain during these five different modes and if they can be used to better discriminate the nature of attentional changes during meditation.

 

In today’s Research News article “Focus on the Breath: Brain Decoding Reveals Internal States of Attention During Meditation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7483757/ ) Weng and colleagues recruited healthy adult meditators (at least 5 years of experience) and non-meditators. They were given a series of tasks while having their brains scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). They were asked for 16-50 seconds to 1) pay attention to their breath, 2) let the mind wander, 3) think about past events, 4) pay attention to their feet, and 5) pay attention to ambient sounds. The 5 conditions were repeated multiple times in random orders. They then performed a 10-minute breath following meditation followed by a repeat of the premeditation tasks. Artificial intelligence was employed to determine unique neural activity associated with each of the 5 mental states for each participant.

 

They found unique individual brain activity patterns for each participant and could reliably distinguish different individual patterns for the 5 mental states. They then used these individualized patterns in an attempt to determine mental state during the breath focused meditation. They found that the individualized patterns identified for following the breath were present a greater percentage of time than the mind wandering or self-referential states when engaging in breath focused meditation. Further they found that the greater the amount of time for each participant in the breath following brain pattern the larger the rating by the participant of their engagement with breath following.

 

This was a proof of concept study. But it successfully demonstrated that unique individual patterns of brain activity can be identified for 5 mental states. These could be reliably differentiated. It also showed that these patterns could be used to identify breath following during breath following meditation. This suggests that this method may be used to identify mental states during ongoing meditation sessions. This could be a powerful research tool for future investigations of the mental states occurring during meditation.

 

So, unique brain activity registers internal attentional states during meditation.

 

Mindfulness training can help change patterns of brain activity because the synapses within these attentional networks can strengthen or weaken with use. So, join a mindful meditation class or download a mindful meditation app and train your brain to get out of the default mode network and be present!” – Mclean Bolton

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

Weng, H. Y., Lewis-Peacock, J. A., Hecht, F. M., Uncapher, M. R., Ziegler, D. A., Farb, N., Goldman, V., Skinner, S., Duncan, L. G., Chao, M. T., & Gazzaley, A. (2020). Focus on the Breath: Brain Decoding Reveals Internal States of Attention During Meditation. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 14, 336. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2020.00336

Abstract

Meditation practices are often used to cultivate interoception or internally-oriented attention to bodily sensations, which may improve health via cognitive and emotional regulation of bodily signals. However, it remains unclear how meditation impacts internal attention (IA) states due to lack of measurement tools that can objectively assess mental states during meditation practice itself, and produce time estimates of internal focus at individual or group levels. To address these measurement gaps, we tested the feasibility of applying multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) to single-subject fMRI data to: (1) learn and recognize internal attentional states relevant for meditation during a directed IA task; and (2) decode or estimate the presence of those IA states during an independent meditation session. Within a mixed sample of experienced meditators and novice controls (N = 16), we first used MVPA to develop single-subject brain classifiers for five modes of attention during an IA task in which subjects were specifically instructed to engage in one of five states [i.e., meditation-related states: breath attention, mind wandering (MW), and self-referential processing, and control states: attention to feet and sounds]. Using standard cross-validation procedures, MVPA classifiers were trained in five of six IA blocks for each subject, and predictive accuracy was tested on the independent sixth block (iterated until all volumes were tested, N = 2,160). Across participants, all five IA states were significantly recognized well above chance (>41% vs. 20% chance). At the individual level, IA states were recognized in most participants (87.5%), suggesting that recognition of IA neural patterns may be generalizable for most participants, particularly experienced meditators. Next, for those who showed accurate IA neural patterns, the originally trained classifiers were applied to a separate meditation run (10-min) to make an inference about the percentage time engaged in each IA state (breath attention, MW, or self-referential processing). Preliminary group-level analyses demonstrated that during meditation practice, participants spent more time attending to breath compared to MW or self-referential processing. This paradigm established the feasibility of using MVPA classifiers to objectively assess mental states during meditation at the participant level, which holds promise for improved measurement of internal attention states cultivated by meditation.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7483757/

 

Improve the Quality of Life with Aging with Tai Chi

Improve the Quality of Life with Aging with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Over the past few years, tai chi has been at the top of the list of “alternative therapies” with benefits that . . . helps senior improve their balance, mood and joint health.” – IlluminAge

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. This markedly reduces the quality of life in aging individuals. There is some hope for age related decline, however, as there is evidence that it can be slowed. There are some indications that physical and mental exercise can reduce the rate of decline. For example, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and Tai Chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. The research findings have been accumulating. So, it makes sense to step back and summarize what has been learned about the effectiveness of Tai Chi for reducing the decline in quality of life during aging.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effectiveness of Tai chi exercise on overall quality of life and its physical and psychological components among older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7485323/ ) Wang and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the published research studies of the effectiveness of Tai Chi practice in reducing the age related decline in quality of life. They identified 10 published randomized controlled trials with a total of 1170 participants who were aged 50 years and older.

 

They report that the published research found that Tai Chi practice significantly improved the quality of life in older and elderly individuals. This improvement was significant particularly for physical component of quality of life. But was not significant for the psychological component. This is not surprising as Tai Chi practice has been shown to improve strength and balance and reduce the likelihood of falls in older individuals. These benefits should improve their physical well being and reduce the likelihood of injury.

 

It is a bit surprising that the psychological component of quality of life was not improved. Tai Chi is often practiced in social groups while the elderly are often isolated and have high levels of loneliness. So, it would be expected that the social interactions occurring with Tai Chi practice would improve their psychological well-being. This needs to be further researched.

 

Tai Chi is an ancient mindfulness practices involving slow prescribed movements. It is gentle and completely safe, can be used with the healthy and sickly, is inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility or even public park, and can be quickly learned. In addition, it can be practiced in social groups without professional supervision. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. This makes Tai Chi an almost ideal practice for the improvement of quality of life in aging individuals.

 

So, improve the quality of life with aging with Tai Chi.

 

Tai Chi promotes optimal aging and well-being by providing mild-to-moderate cardiorespiratory exercise, muscular strengthening, balance and postural control along with many mental and social benefits.” – Kristine Hallisy

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Wang, D., Wang, P., Lan, K., Zhang, Y., & Pan, Y. (2020). Effectiveness of Tai chi exercise on overall quality of life and its physical and psychological components among older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Brazilian journal of medical and biological research = Revista brasileira de pesquisas medicas e biologicas, 53(10), e10196. https://doi.org/10.1590/1414-431X202010196

 

Abstract

With the aging of the world’s population, the quality of life of older adults is becoming more important. There are many studies on the use of Tai chi exercise, a popular form of mind-body exercise practiced by older adults. However, the effectiveness of Tai chi exercise on the quality of life of older adults is unclear. For this systematic review and meta-analysis, six databases (PubMed, CENTRAL, CINAHL, EMBASE, Scopus, CNKI) were searched in English and Chinese languages to screen for relevant randomized controlled trials (RCT), and their risk of bias was assessed by two independent reviewers. The results of quality of life, physical component, and psychological component among older adults were meta-analyzed using RevMan5.3 software. The search retrieved 2577 records. After screening, a total of 10 RCTs were included in this evaluation, with a total of 1170 participants. The meta-analysis showed that compared with the control group, Tai chi exercise had a significant impact on the overall quality of life (SMD=1.23; 95%CI: 0.56–1.98; P<0.0001), and on the physical component of quality of life (MD=5.90; 95%CI: 1.05–10.75; P=0.02), but no significant impact on the psychological component of quality of life. This study had high heterogeneity. The results of this study suggest the potential use of Tai chi exercise as an activity for increased quality of life in older adults. Future research may enhance experimental rigor and explore the rationale behind Tai chi exercise.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7485323/

 

Improve Inflammation and Depression with Mild Cognitive Impairment with Mindfulness

Improve Inflammation and Depression with Mild Cognitive Impairment with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“adults with mild cognitive impairment who practice mindfulness meditation could experience a boost in cognitive reserve.” – Monica Beyer

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. The elderly frequently have problems with attention, thinking, and memory, known as mild cognitive impairment. An encouraging new development is that mindfulness practices such as meditation training and mindful movement practices can significantly reduce these declines in cognitive ability. In addition, it has been found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue.

 

Intervening early in patients with mild cognitive impairment may be able to delay or even prevent full blown dementia. So, it is important to study the effectiveness of mindfulness training on older adults with mild cognitive impairment to improve their psychological and physical well-being and cognitive performance.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on Depression, Cognition, and Immunity in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Pilot Feasibility Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7429186/ ) Marciniak and colleagues recruited older adults, over 55 years of age, who were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and randomly assigned them to receive 8 weekly 2.5-hour sessions of either Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or to cognitive training. Weekly training was accompanied by daily home practice. MBSR consisted in training of body scan, sitting meditation, mindful movement, working with difficulties, meditation with imagination, and discussion. Cognitive training focused on specific cognitive domains including memory, attention, and logical thinking. They were measured before and after training and 6 months later for cognitive functions, anxiety, depression and spiritual well-being. Blood was drawn before and after training and assayed for immune system cells.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the cognitive training group, the participants who received Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training had significantly lower depression levels both after training and 6 months later. The MBSR group also had improvements in psychomotor speed and significant decreases in resting monocyte activation immediately after training.

 

These are somewhat disappointing results as neither Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or cognitive training produced significant improvements in cognitive function. The study was rather small, however, with only 12 and 9 participants in the groups respectively. statistical power was lacking to detect differences. These results suggest that large changes in cognitive abilities are not produced in these patients by either MBSR or cognitive training.

 

Nevertheless, MBSR training did significantly improve depression in these elderly with mild cognitive impairment. MBSR has been shown to improve depression in a variety of different types of healthy and sick individuals. So, this result is not surprising but important as depression is a serious problem in the elderly, especially those with diminished cognitive capacity and that depression can produce further physical and psychological deterioration in the patients.

 

Importantly, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) appears to reduce immune monocyte activation. This suggests that MBSR may reduce inflammation. It has been previously shown to reduce inflammation in other groups. This is potentially important in that levels of inflammation are generally high in patients with mild cognitive impairment and chronic inflammation is a threat to the health and well-being of these patients. Reducing it with MBSR training may have long-term consequences for improved health in elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment.

 

So, improve inflammation and depression with mild cognitive impairment with mindfulness.

 

A mindfulness intervention reduces inflammatory biomarkers that are associated with cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.” – Eric Dolan

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Marciniak, R., Šumec, R., Vyhnálek, M., Bendíčková, K., Lázničková, P., Forte, G., Jeleník, A., Římalová, V., Frič, J., Hort, J., & Sheardová, K. (2020). The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on Depression, Cognition, and Immunity in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Pilot Feasibility Study. Clinical interventions in aging, 15, 1365–1381. https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S249196

 

Abstract

Background

Mindfulness-based programs have shown a promising effect on several health factors associated with increased risk of dementia and the conversion from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to dementia such as depression, stress, cognitive decline, immune system and brain structural and functional changes. Studies on mindfulness in MCI subjects are sparse and frequently lack control intervention groups.

Objective

To determine the feasibility and the effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) practice on depression, cognition and immunity in MCI compared to cognitive training.

Methods

Twenty-eight MCI subjects were randomly assigned to two groups. MBSR group underwent 8-week MBSR program. Control group underwent 8-week cognitive training. Their cognitive and immunological profiles and level of depressive symptoms were examined at baseline, after each 8-week intervention (visit 2, V2) and six months after each intervention (visit 3, V3). MBSR participants completed feasibility questionnaire at V2.

Results

Twenty MCI patients completed the study (MBSR group n=12, control group n=8). MBSR group showed significant reduction in depressive symptoms at both V2 (p=0.03) and V3 (p=0.0461) compared to the baseline. There was a minimal effect on cognition – a group comparison analysis showed better psychomotor speed in the MBSR group compared to the control group at V2 (p=0.0493) but not at V3. There was a detectable change in immunological profiles in both groups, more pronounced in the MBSR group. Participants checked only positive/neutral answers concerning the attractivity/length of MBSR intervention. More severe cognitive decline (PVLT≤36) was associated with the lower adherence to home practice.

Conclusion

MBSR is well-accepted potentially promising intervention with positive effect on cognition, depressive symptoms and immunological profile.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7429186/

 

Increase White Matter in the Brains of Aging Women with Tai Chi

Increase White Matter in the Brains of Aging Women with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“studies have shown tai chi’s association with improved cognition and neuroplasticity. This has led the scientific community to suggest tai chi may be of useful treating physical and psychological disorders, including stroke, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, and depression.” – Sara Alvarado

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. The elderly frequently have problems with attention, thinking, and memory abilities, known as mild cognitive impairment. An encouraging new development is that mindfulness practices such as meditation training and mindful movement practices can significantly reduce these declines in cognitive ability. In addition, it has been found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation,  yoga, and Tai Chi have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners.

 

Tai Chi has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevityTai Chi training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Tai Chi practice has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. Tai Chi has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive function, memory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain. So, it makes sense to further study the effects of Tai Chi training on the brains of older adults.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi Training Evokes Significant Changes in Brain White Matter Network in Older Women.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7151065/) Yue and colleagues recruited elderly women (average age of 63 years) and who had been routinely performing (90 minutes at least 5 times per week for at least 6 years in groups) either Tai Chi or daily walking. They were measured for mental ability, working memory, and cognitive ability. In addition, their brains were scanned with Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI).

 

They found that in comparison to the walking group, the brains of the Tai Chi group had a greater volume of white matter indicating that their brains could transfer information effectively both locally and globally. They also found that the Tai Chi group had significantly better working memory performance than the walking group and that greater the volume of white matter in their brains the better their working memories. This was true for both working memory speed and accuracy.

 

A strength of the present study is that there was an active control group, walking, that was, like Tai Chi, performed in a group and was a moderate exercise. So, the results can be interpreted as due to the performance of Tai Chi itself and not to nonspecific factors such as socialization and exercise. The weaknesses in the study included the fact that only women were studied, there was no random assignment to groups, and that there was no manipulation of Tai Chi or walking practice. The participants self-selected which exercise to participate in. This opens up the possibility that there may have been systematic differences between the groups.

 

The results suggest that routine Tai Chi practice improves the brain’s ability to transfer information around the nervous system in elderly women. This may protect that individuals from the inevitable deterioration of the brain with aging and its associated decline in cognitive ability. The relationship between white matter and working memory is evidence for that protection against cognitive decline. These results support previous findings that mindfulness practices can protect the individual from age related brain deterioration and cognitive decline.

 

So, increase white matter in the brains of aging women with Tai Chi.

 

A comparison of the effects of regular sessions of tai chi, walking, and social discussion, has found tai chi was associated with the biggest gains in brain volume and improved cognition.” – About Memory

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Yue, C., Zou, L., Mei, J., Moore, D., Herold, F., Müller, P., Yu, Q., Liu, Y., Lin, J., Tao, Y., Loprinzi, P., & Zhang, Z. (2020). Tai Chi Training Evokes Significant Changes in Brain White Matter Network in Older Women. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland), 8(1), 57. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare8010057

 

Abstract

Background: Cognitive decline is age relevant and it can start as early as middle age. The decline becomes more obvious among older adults, which is highly associated with increased risk of developing dementia (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease). White matter damage was found to be related to cognitive decline through aging. The purpose of the current study was to compare the effects of Tai Chi (TC) versus walking on the brain white matter network among Chinese elderly women. Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted where 42 healthy elderly women were included. Tai Chi practitioners (20 females, average age: 62.9 ± 2.38 years, education level 9.05 ± 1.8 years) and the matched walking participants (22 females, average age: 63.27 ± 3.58 years, educational level: 8.86 ± 2.74 years) underwent resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI) scans. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and graph theory were employed to study the data, construct the white matter matrix, and compare the brain network attributes between the two groups. Results: Results from graph-based analyses showed that the small-world attributes were higher for the TC group than for the walking group (p < 0.05, Cohen’s d = 1.534). Some effects were significant (p < 0.001) with very large effect sizes. Meanwhile, the aggregation coefficient and local efficiency attributes were also higher for the TC group than for the walking group (p > 0.05). However, no significant difference was found between the two groups in node attributes and edge analysis. Conclusion: Regular TC training is more conducive to optimize the brain functioning and networking of the elderly. The results of the current study help to identify the mechanisms underlying the cognitive protective effects of TC.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7151065/