Tags: tai | chi | brain | mental

Tai Chi Increases Brain Size

Thursday, 21 Jun 2012 11:55 AM


Tai Chi, the ancient dance-like Chinese meditative practice, has been found to improve memory and thinking in seniors, and also leads to an increase in brain volume, according to new research.
A joint research project involving U.S. and Chinese scientists determined Chinese seniors who practiced Tai Chi three times a week for eight months had significant improvements in cognitive abilities.
The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, was conducted by researchers from the University of South Florida and Fudan University in Shanghai.
Dr. James Mortimer, a health researcher with the USF College of Public Health, noted previous studies have shown that dementia and age-related cognitive decline may be due to 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," he said.
The findings were based on an 8-month study that compared seniors who practiced Tai Chi to a group that did not. Past research has found increases in brain volume in people who participated in aerobic exercise. But the new study is the first to show that a less aerobic form of exercise, Tai Chi, led to similar increases in brain size and improvements on psychological tests of memory and thinking.
Mortimer said the findings suggest the possibility that sustained physical and mental exercise can help prevent Alzheimer's disease.
"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," he 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."


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