The effect of Tai Chi practice on brain white matter structure: a diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging study

Res Sports Med. Jan-Mar 2019;27(1):121-130. doi: 10.1080/15438627.2018.1502184. Epub 2018 Jul 27.


Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) measures the displacement of water molecules across tissue components and thus provides information on the microstructure of brain white matter. This study examined the effect of Tai Chi and the relation of Tai Chi experiences and skills with brain white matter. Fractional anisotropy (FA) was obtained from the DTI magnetic resonance images of two group participants, namely, the long-term Tai Chi practitioners and sedentary counterparts. Whole-brain voxel-based analysis showed that the Tai Chi group had higher FA in the splenium of corpus callosum (p = 0.015) than the control group. Rank correlation analysis revealed that in the Tai Chi group, the FA value of the splenium of corpus callosum was moderately related with exercise duration (r = 0.45, p = 0.045) but highly related with skill level (r = 0.699, p = 0.001). Long-term Tai Chi practice could benefit to the brain white matter, and these impacts were correlated with exercise duration and skill level.

Keywords: Tai Chi; aging; brain white matter; diffusion tensor imaging; exercise.

MeSH terms

  • Anisotropy
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Corpus Callosum / diagnostic imaging
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Tai Ji*
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging*