Can Taichi Reshape the Brain? A Brain Morphometry Study

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Abstract

Although research has provided abundant evidence for Taichi-induced improvements in psychological and physiological well-being, little is known about possible links to brain structure of Taichi practice. Using high-resolution MRI of 22 Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) practitioners and 18 controls matched for age, sex and education, we set out to examine the underlying anatomical correlates of long-term Taichi practice at two different levels of regional specificity. For this purpose, parcel-wise and vertex-wise analyses were employed to quantify the difference between TCC practitioners and the controls based on cortical surface reconstruction. We also adopted the Attention Network Test (ANT) to explore the effect of TCC on executive control. TCC practitioners, compared with controls, showed significantly thicker cortex in precentral gyrus, insula sulcus and middle frontal sulcus in the right hemisphere and superior temporal gyrus and medial occipito-temporal sulcus and lingual sulcus in the left hemisphere. Moreover, we found that thicker cortex in left medial occipito-temporal sulcus and lingual sulcus was associated with greater intensity of TCC practice. These findings indicate that long-term TCC practice could induce regional structural change and also suggest TCC might share similar patterns of neural correlates with meditation and aerobic exercise.

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Wei, G. X., Xu, T., Fan, F. M., Dong, H. M., Jiang, L. L., Li, H. J., … Zuo, X. N. (2013). Can Taichi Reshape the Brain? A Brain Morphometry Study. PLoS ONE, 8(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0061038

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