Revealing the Neural Mechanisms Underlying the Beneficial Effects of Tai Chi: A Neuroimaging Perspective

Am J Chin Med. 2018;46(2):231-259. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X18500131.

Abstract

Tai Chi Chuan (TCC), a traditional Chinese martial art, is well-documented to result in beneficial consequences in physical and mental health. TCC is regarded as a mind-body exercise that is comprised of physical exercise and meditation. Favorable effects of TCC on body balance, gait, bone mineral density, metabolic parameters, anxiety, depression, cognitive function, and sleep have been previously reported. However, the underlying mechanisms explaining the effects of TCC remain largely unclear. Recently, advances in neuroimaging technology have offered new investigative opportunities to reveal the effects of TCC on anatomical morphologies and neurological activities in different regions of the brain. These neuroimaging findings have provided new clues for revealing the mechanisms behind the observed effects of TCC. In this review paper, we discussed the possible effects of TCC-induced modulation of brain morphology, functional homogeneity and connectivity, regional activity and macro-scale network activity on health. Moreover, we identified possible links between the alterations in brain and beneficial effects of TCC, such as improved motor functions, pain perception, metabolic profile, cognitive functions, mental health and sleep quality. This paper aimed to stimulate further mechanistic neuroimaging studies in TCC and its effects on brain morphology, functional homogeneity and connectivity, regional activity and macro-scale network activity, which ultimately lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms responsible for the beneficial effects of TCC on human health.

Keywords: Cognitive Function; Mood; Pain; Review; Traditional Chinese Exercise.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Functional Neuroimaging*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Metabolic Diseases / rehabilitation
  • Mood Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Pain / rehabilitation
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Tai Ji*