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Tai Chi Improves the Task-switching Function in Older Adults

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November 15, 2014 -
A study published in the October 2014 issue of Frontiers in aging neuroscience was designed to determine the relationship between physical activity and the task-switching aspect of executive function by investigating the modulating roles of age, modality of physical activity, and type of cognitive function using behavioral and event-related potential assessments.

Sixty-four participants were assigned to one of four groups based on age and history of physical activity: older adults performing endurance exercise, older adults practicing Tai Chi, older adults with a sedentary lifestyle, and young adults.

Study participants completed a task-switching task under homogeneous and heterogeneous conditions while event-related potentials were recorded. The results revealed that the young adults group had shortest reaction times compared with the three older adults groups, with the sedentary group exhibiting the longest reaction time. The young adults group also exhibited shorter P3 latency than the sedentary group. No differences were observed in P3 amplitude between the young adults group, older adults performing endurance exercise, and older adults practicing Tai Chi; however, all three groups had significantly larger P3 amplitude in both task conditions compared with older adults with a sedentary lifestyle.

In conclusion, age and participation in physical activity influence the relationship between physical activity and task-switching, and a positive relationship was observed regardless of the modality of physical activity and type of cognitive function. The Event-related Potential findings suggest that regular participation in endurance exercise and Tai Chi may have equivalent beneficial effects on cognition at the behavioral and neuroelectric levels.

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