Tai Chi and meditation-plus-exercise benefit neural substrates of executive function: a cross-sectional, controlled study.

Research paper by Teresa D TD Hawkes, Wayne W Manselle, Marjorie H MH Woollacott

Indexed on: 09 Oct '14Published on: 09 Oct '14Published in: Journal of complementary & integrative medicine


We report the first controlled study of Tai Chi effects on the P300 event-related potential, a neuroelectric index of human executive function. Tai Chi is a form of exercise and moving meditation. Exercise and meditation have been associated with enhanced executive function. This cross-sectional, controlled study utilized the P300 event-related potential (ERP) to compare executive network neural function between self-selected long-term Tai Chi, meditation, aerobic fitness, and sedentary groups. We hypothesized that because Tai Chi requires moderate aerobic and mental exertion, this group would show similar or better executive neural function compared to meditation and aerobic exercise groups. We predicted all health training groups would outperform sedentary controls.Fifty-four volunteers (Tai Chi, n=10; meditation, n=16; aerobic exercise, n=16; sedentary, n=12) were tested with the Rockport 1-mile walk (estimated VO2 Max), a well-validated measure of aerobic capacity, and an ecologically valid visuo-spatial, randomized, alternating runs Task Switch test during dense-array electroencephalographic (EEG) recording.Only Tai Chi and meditation plus exercise groups demonstrated larger P3b ERP switch trial amplitudes compared to sedentary controls.Our results suggest long-term Tai Chi practice, and meditation plus exercise may benefit the neural substrates of executive function.