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Tai Chi Generates Mood and Fatigue Improvements in Patients with Major Depressive Disorder

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June 27, 2020 - Tai Chi, a contemplative practice combining slow movements and deep breathing, has been shown to be clinically effective in alleviating depressive symptoms. Feelings of fatigue or low vitality often accompany major depressive disorder (MDD) though they are commonly overlooked and not well understood neurologically.

By using resting state functional connectivity (rs-FC) using the insula as the seed, a joint study by Brown University and Harvard Medical School examines the relationship between mood and vitality symptoms in MDD and how they are impacted by Tai Chi training.

Sixteen patients with MDD participated in a 10-week Tai Chi intervention. Self-report scores of vitality (using the SF-36 scale) and depressed mood (using the Beck Depression Inventory) as well as rs-fMRI were collected pre- and post-intervention. A seed-to-voxel approach was used to test whether changes in insular rs-FC were related to therapeutic improvement in MDD-related symptoms resulting from Tai Chi practice.

The study found decreased self-reported depressed mood and increased vitality following the Tai Chi intervention. Furthermore, decreases in depressed mood were associated with increased rs-FC between the right anterior insula (AIC) and superior temporal gyrus and caudate. Increased vitality was associated with increased rs-FC between the right posterior insula (PIC) and regions associated with sensorimotor processes.

Conclusion: These results provide support for differential changes in insula connectivity as neural correlates of symptom improvement in MDD.




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