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Qigong Improves Memory Scores (DMN)

This study examined the effects of Tai Chi and Baduanjin on the Default Mode Network (DMN) in individuals between the ages of 50 and 70 years old.

Participants were randomized into 3 groups: group 1 performed Tai Chi exercises based on Yang Style 24 form; group 2 performed exercises of Baduanjin; and group 3 was the control group and received a health education lecture at the beginning of the program and were instructed to continue with their routine activities over the next 12 weeks.

Groups 1 and 2 performed their respective exercises for 60 minutes, 5 times/week, for 12 weeks. Pre and post outcome measures consisted of a standardized memory test and resting-state functional MRI’s.

The default mode network refers to a collection of areas in the brain that have shown age related decreases in neural activities related to goal-directed tasks. Two of these regions- the medial prefrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex- have been implicated in the processing of cognitive, emotional, pain and other self-modulation. Abnormalities of the DMN have been detected in multiple age-related diseases, such as mild cognitive impairment (Gardini et al., 2015), Alzheimer’s disease (Brueggen et al., 2017), depression (Ho et al., 2015) and Parkinson’s disease (Mohan et al., 2016).

In addition, studies have found that stress is also associated with alterations of the DMN.

Compared to the control group, both the Tai Chi group and the Baduanjin group showed significant improvement in memory scores, with Baduanjin also producing greater improvements in mental control, recognition, touch and comprehension memory subscores compared to the control group and improvements in touch subscores compared to the Tai Chi group.

The authors concluded that both Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin significantly modulate the DMN but through different pathways. Further study on how various mind–body interventions can modulate the DMN may shed light on the development of new interventions to prevent age-related disorders such as mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's’ Disease, as well as other diseases associated with a disrupted DMN.


Different Modulation Effects of Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin on Resting State Functional Connectivity of the Default Mode Network in Older Adults.

Liu J, Tao J, Liu W, Huang J, Xue X, Li M, Yang M, Zhu J, Lang C, Park J, Tu Y, Wilson G, Chen L, Kong J. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2019 Jan 18. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsz001. [Epub ahead of print]

The default mode network (DMN) plays an important role in age-related cognitive decline. This study aims to explore the modulation effect of two mind-body interventions (Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin) on DMN in elderly individuals.

Participants between 50 and 70 years old were recruited and randomized into a Tai Chi Chuan, Baduanjin, or control group.

The Wechsler Memory Scale-Chinese Revision (WMS-CR) and resting state fMRI scans were administered at baseline and following 12 weeks of exercise. Seed-based resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) was calculated.

We found that: 1) compared to the Baduanjin group, Tai Chi Chuan was significantly associated with increased rsFC between the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and right putamen/caudate; 2) Compared to the control group, Tai Chi Chuan increased posterior cingulate cortex rsFC with the right putamen/caudate, while Baduanjin decreased rsFC between the mPFC and orbital prefrontal gyrus/putamen. Baseline mPFC rsFC with orbital prefrontal gyrus was negatively correlated with VRS.

These results suggest that both Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin can modulate the DMN, but through different pathways.

Elucidating the mechanisms underlying different mind-body interventions may shed light on the development of new methods to prevent age-related diseases as well as other disorders associated with disrupted DMN.