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“Minding” Our Bodies: Research on the Impact of Tai Chi on Cognitive-neuromuscular Interactions in Older Adults

Speaker: Peter Wayne, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital,

Research Director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine 

Date: September 12, 2016 - 10:00 a.m. ET

Location: Building 10, Lipsett Auditorium, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD

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Event Description

A growing body of research supports that risks for fall-related injuries and cognitive decline in older adults are highly interdependent; and processes like executive function, gait health, and balance are correlated and predictive of one another. This emerging view supports a unique role for mind and body exercises like tai chi, which strategically target both cognitive and motor processes, as well as their coordination (e.g., through training in attention shifting, multitasking, and goal setting).

The presentation will summarize the state of clinical research evidence for the use of tai chi for preserving and rehabilitating age- and chronic disease-related decline in postural control and cognitive function. Dr. Wayne will discuss experimental studies informing mechanisms of tai chi’s impact, as well as pragmatic studies informing its cost effectiveness. The presentation will conclude with suggestions for future research targeting current evidence gaps, including the potential use of technology for enhancing the monitoring and delivery of pragmatic community-based mind and body interventions.

Learning objectives:

  1. List three potentially therapeutic training elements inherent in multi-component mind and body exercises like tai chi.
  2. Learn the clinical evidence for tai chi in preserving and rehabilitating age- and chronic disease-related decline in postural control and cognitive function.
  3. Understand the interdependence of cognitive and motor processes in age-related falls and cognitive decline.

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About the Speaker:

Dr. Peter Wayne is an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and research director at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine located at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/HMS. Dr. Wayne’s research focuses on evaluating how mind and body and related complementary and integrative health practices―particularly tai chi―clinically affect chronic health conditions and contribute to the physiological and psychological mechanisms underlying observed therapeutic effects.

He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and has authored or co-authored numerous studies on such subjects as: how tai chi and other integrative mind and body modalities affect dynamic postural control; the effects of tai chi and related practices on cardiorespiratory health; how acupuncture may help in rehabilitation following stroke; and potential effects of Japanese acupuncture on endometriosis-related pelvicpain. He and a colleague have completed an NCCIH-supported study on the use and effectiveness of a model integrative care clinic in an academic hospital, to 1) characterize referral and practice patterns and aspects of communication and decisionmaking in the use of conventional and complementary therapies, and 2) evaluate the effectiveness of an integrative care team in the treatment of chronic low-back pain. Dr. Wayne also has received support from NCCIH to investigate how tai chi compares with walking as rehabilitation exercise in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He is the author of the 2013 Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi, which received an Award of Excellence in Medical Communication from the American Medical Writers Association.