Tai Chi Helps Older Adults with Mental-Attentional Tasks
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June 27, 2016 -
Tai Chi practice has some
fitness, wellness, and general cognitive effects in older adults. However,
benefits of Tai Chi on specific mental-attentional executive processes have not
been investigated previously. York University studied older Canadian adults of
Chinese and non-Chinese origin and from low socioeconomic areas.
In this study that is published
by the journal BMC psychology in May,
2016, 64 adults (51-87 years old) took part in a 16-week Tai Chi program. There
were two groups: 35 of Chinese-background and 29 of Non-Chinese-background. They
received four mental-attention executive tasks before and after the 16-week
period. These tasks measured visuospatial reasoning, mental-attentional
activation (working memory), attentional inhibition, and balance between these
attention factors (field-dependence-independence).
Chinese participants showed
significant gain on Figural Intersections Task (mental-attentional capacity),
Anti-saccade (attentional inhibition), and Matrix Reasoning (fluid intelligence
measure). Both groups evidenced gain on the Water Level Task (attentional
These gains suggest that Tai Chi can improve
mental-attentional vigilance and executive control, when practitioners are
sufficiently motivated to pursue this practice, and apply themselves (as our
Chinese participants seem to have done). We found that Tai Chi enhanced mental
attentional executives in the Chinese sample. The largely negative results with
Non-Chinese participants might be explained by less strong motivation and by the
relatively short Tai Chi practice period, which contrasts with the prior
familiarity with Tai Chi of the Chinese participants.