Original research| Volume 101, ISSUE 7, P1176-1182, July 2020

Brain Functional Specialization Is Enhanced Among Tai Chi Chuan Practitioners

Published:February 25, 2020DOI:



      To investigate the effect of long-term Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) practice on practitioners’ brain functional specialization compare with the TCC novices.


      A cross-sectional study.


      A psychology Institute.


      TCC practitioners (N=22) (52.4±6.8y; 7 men; educated years: 12.18±3.03y) and 18 healthy adults (54.8±6.8y; 8 men; education years: 11.78±2.90y) matched by age, sex, and education were enrolled.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging scanning and cognitive test to measure the differences in functional specialization and cognitive function. Functional specialization was evaluated by voxel-mirrored homotopic connectivity (VMHC) method.


      Lower middle frontal gyrus VMHC in TCC practitioners compared to controls. For TCC practitioners, the longer they practice, the lower their VMHC in precentral and precuneus. TCC practitioners showed better cognition performance.


      Changed VMHC indicated that TCC practice could enhance functional specialization in the middle frontal cortex of practitioners, which may be associated with higher-order cognitive ability.


      List of abbreviations:

      ANT (attention network test), DPARSF (Data Processing Assistant for Resting-State fMRI), FC (functional connectivity), fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), MFG (middle frontal gyrus), MNI (Montreal Neurological Institute), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), NCT (number cancellation test), TCC (Tai Chi Chuan), VMHC (voxel-mirrored homotopic connectivity)
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Wei G.X.
        • Li Y.F.
        • Yue X.L.
        • et al.
        Tai Chi Chuan modulates heart rate variability during abdominal breathing in elderly adults.
        Psych J. 2016; 5: 69-77
        • Hoffmannsmith K.A.
        • Ma A.
        • Yeh C.T.
        • Deguire N.L.
        • Smith J.P.
        The effect of Tai Chi in reducing anxiety in an ambulatory population.
        J Complement Integr Med. 2009; 6
        • Zou L.
        • Pan Z.
        • Yeung A.
        • et al.
        A review study on the beneficial effects of Baduanjin.
        J Altern Complement Med. 2018; 24: 324-335
        • Zou L.
        • Yeung A.
        • Zeng N.
        • et al.
        Effects of mind-body exercises for mood and functional capabilities in patients with stroke: an analytical review of randomized controlled trials.
        Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018; 15: 721
        • Chang Y.K.
        • Nien Y.H.
        • Chen A.G.
        • Yan J.
        Tai Ji Quan, the brain, and cognition in older adults.
        J Sport Health Sci. 2014; 3: 36-42
        • Zou L.
        • Han J.
        • Li C.
        • et al.
        The effects of Tai Chi on lower limb proprioception in adults aged over 55: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
        Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2019; 100: 1102-1113
        • Wang C.
        • Schmid C.H.
        • Fielding R.A.
        • et al.
        Effect of tai chi versus aerobic exercise for fibromyalgia: comparative effectiveness randomized controlled trial.
        BMJ. 2018; 360: k851
        • Kong J.
        • Wilson G.
        • Park J.
        • Pereira K.
        • Walpole C.
        • Yeung A.
        Treating depression with Tai Chi: state of the art and future perspectives.
        Front Psychiatry. 2019; 10: 237
        • Field T.
        • Diego M.
        • Delgado J.
        • Medina L.
        Tai Chi/Yoga reduces prenatal depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances.
        Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2013; 19: 6-10
        • Fong D.Y.
        • Chi L.K.
        • Li F.
        • Chang Y.K.
        The benefits of endurance exercise and Tai Chi Chuan for the task-switching aspect of executive function in older adults: an ERP study.
        Front Aging Neurosci. 2014; 6: 295
        • Wei G.X.
        • Xu T.
        • Fan F.M.
        • et al.
        Can Taichi reshape the brain? A brain morphometry study.
        PLoS One. 2013; 8: e61038
        • Mortimer J.A.
        • Ding D.
        • Borenstein A.R.
        • et al.
        Changes in brain volume and cognition in a randomized trial of exercise and social interaction in a community-based sample of non-demented Chinese elders.
        J Alzheimers Dis. 2012; 30: 757-766
        • Tao J.
        • Liu J.
        • Liu W.
        • et al.
        Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin increase grey matter volume in older adults: a brain imaging study.
        J Alzheimers Dis. 2017; 60: 389-400
        • Tao J.
        • Chen X.
        • Egorova N.
        • et al.
        Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin practice modulates functional connectivity of the cognitive control network in older adults.
        Sci Rep. 2017; 7: 41581
        • Tao J.
        • Chen X.
        • Liu J.
        • et al.
        Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin mind-body training changes resting-state low-frequency fluctuations in the frontal lobe of older adults: a resting-state fMRI study.
        Front Hum Neurosci. 2017; 11: 514
        • Wei G.X.
        • Dong H.M.
        • Yang Z.
        • Luo J.
        • Zuo X.N.
        Tai Chi Chuan optimizes the functional organization of the intrinsic human brain architecture in older adults.
        Front Aging Neurosci. 2014; 6: 74
        • Wei G.X.
        • Gong Z.Q.
        • Yang Z.
        • Zuo X.N.
        Mind-body practice changes fractional amplitude of low frequency fluctuations in intrinsic control networks.
        Front Psychol. 2017; 8: 1049
        • Wang D.
        • Buckner R.L.
        • Liu H.
        Functional specialization in the human brain estimated by intrinsic hemispheric interaction.
        J Neurosci. 2014; 34: 12341-12352
        • Zuo X.N.
        • Kelly C.
        • Di Martino A.
        • et al.
        Growing together and growing apart: regional and sex differences in the lifespan developmental trajectories of functional homotopy.
        J Neurosci. 2010; 30: 15034-15043
        • Ruddy K.L.
        • Leemans A.
        • Carson R.G.
        Transcallosal connectivity of the human cortical motor network.
        Brain Struct Funct. 2017; 222: 1243-1252
        • Chang X.
        • Xi Y.B.
        • Cui L.B.
        • et al.
        Distinct inter-hemispheric dysconnectivity in schizophrenia patients with and without auditory verbal hallucinations.
        Sci Rep. 2015; 5: 11218
        • Hermesdorf M.
        • Sundermann B.
        • Feder S.
        • et al.
        Major depressive disorder: findings of reduced homotopic connectivity and investigation of underlying structural mechanisms.
        Hum Brain Mapp. 2016; 37: 1209-1217
        • Lai C.H.
        • Wu Y.T.
        The alterations in inter-hemispheric functional coordination of patients with panic disorder: the findings in the posterior sub-network of default mode network.
        J Affect Disord. 2014; 166: 279-284
        • Fan J.
        • Mccandliss B.D.
        • Sommer T.
        • Raz A.
        • Posner M.I.
        Testing the efficiency and independence of attentional networks.
        J Cogn Neurosci. 2002; 14: 340-347
        • Ishigami Y.
        • Eskes G.A.
        • Tyndall A.V.
        • Longman R.S.
        • Drogos L.L.
        • Poulin M.J.
        The Attention Network Test-Interaction (ANT-I): reliability and validity in healthy older adults.
        Exp Brain Res. 2016; 234: 815-827
        • Dong Q.
        • Lin C.
        Psychological development characteristics of teenagers in China: a general report.
        Science Press, Beijing, China2011
        • Chao-Gan Y.
        • Yu-Feng Z.
        DPARSF: a MATLAB toolbox for “pipeline” data analysis of resting-state fMRI.
        Front Syst Neurosci. 2010; 4: 13
        • Gomez-Robles A.
        • Hopkins W.D.
        • Schapiro S.J.
        • Sherwood C.C.
        The heritability of chimpanzee and human brain asymmetry.
        Proc Biol Sci. 2016; 283: 20161319
        • Kong X.Z.
        • Mathias S.R.
        • Guadalupe T.
        • et al.
        Mapping cortical brain asymmetry in 17,141 healthy individuals worldwide via the ENIGMA Consortium.
        Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018; 115: E5154-E5163
        • Gotts S.J.
        • Jo H.J.
        • Wallace G.L.
        • Saad Z.S.
        • Cox R.W.
        • Martin A.
        Two distinct forms of functional lateralization in the human brain.
        Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013; 110: E3435-E3444
        • Halpern M.E.
        • Güntürkün O.
        • Hopkins W.D.
        • Rogers L.J.
        Lateralization of the vertebrate brain: taking the side of model systems.
        J Neurosci. 2005; 25: 10351-10357
        • Weinstein A.M.
        • Voss M.W.
        • Prakash R.S.
        • et al.
        The association between aerobic fitness and executive function is mediated by prefrontal cortex volume.
        Brain Behav Immun. 2012; 26: 811-819
        • Zhao L.
        • Wang Y.
        • Jia Y.
        • et al.
        Altered interhemispheric functional connectivity in remitted bipolar disorder: a resting state fMRI study.
        Sci Rep. 2017; 7: 4698
        • Wager T.D.
        • Smith E.E.
        Neuroimaging studies of working memory.
        Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2003; 3: 255-274
        • Yin S.
        • Zhu X.
        • Li R.
        • et al.
        Intervention-induced enhancement in intrinsic brain activity in healthy older adults.
        Sci Rep. 2014; 4: 7309
        • Liu Y.
        • Guo W.
        • Zhang Y.
        • et al.
        Decreased resting-state interhemispheric functional connectivity correlated with neurocognitive deficits in drug-naive first-episode adolescent-onset schizophrenia.
        Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2018; 21: 33-41
        • Raichle M.E.
        • Macleod A.M.
        • Snyder A.Z.
        • Powers W.J.
        • Gusnard D.A.
        • Shulman G.L.
        A default mode of brain function.
        Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001; 98: 676-682
        • Yang Z.
        • Chang C.
        • Xu T.
        • et al.
        Connectivity trajectory across lifespan differentiates the precuneus from the default network.
        Neuroimage. 2014; 89: 45-56
        • Acevedo B.P.
        • Pospos S.
        • Lavretsky H.
        The neural mechanisms of meditative practices: novel approaches for healthy aging.
        Curr Behav Neurosci Rep. 2016; 3: 328-339
        • Ataria Y.
        • Dor-Ziderman Y.
        • Berkovich-Ohana A.
        How does it feel to lack a sense of boundaries? A case study of a long-term mindfulness meditator.
        Conscious Cogn. 2015; 37: 133-147
        • Grant J.A.
        • Duerden E.G.
        • Courtemanche J.
        • Cherkasova M.
        • Duncan G.H.
        • Rainville P.
        Cortical thickness, mental absorption and meditative practice: possible implications for disorders of attention.
        Biol Psychol. 2013; 92: 275-281
        • Kurth F.
        • MacKenzie-Graham A.
        • Toga A.W.
        • Luders E.
        Shifting brain asymmetry: the link between meditation and structural lateralization.
        Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2015; 10: 55-61
        • Hari R.
        • Forss N.
        • Avikainen S.
        • Veskari E.K.
        • Salenius S.
        • Rizzolatti G.
        Activation of human primary motor cortex during action observation: a neuromagnetic study.
        Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998; 95: 15061-15065
        • Agcaoglu O.
        • Miller R.
        • Mayer A.R.
        • Hugdahl K.
        • Calhoun V.D.
        Lateralization of resting state networks and relationship to age and gender.
        Neuroimage. 2015; 104: 310-325
        • Fujiyama H.
        • Hinder M.R.
        • Schmidt M.W.
        • Garry M.I.
        • Summers J.J.
        Age-related differences in corticospinal excitability and inhibition during coordination of upper and lower limbs.
        Neurobiol Aging. 2012; 33 (1484.e1-.e14)
        • Luders E.
        Exploring age-related brain degeneration in meditation practitioners.
        Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2014; 1307: 82-88
        • Luders E.
        • Cherbuin N.
        • Gaser C.
        Estimating brain age using high-resolution pattern recognition: younger brains in long-term meditation practitioners.
        Neuroimage. 2016; 134: 508-513