Background: As an adjunct to antidepressant treatment, Tai Chi Chih is superior to health education and wellness (HEW) training in improving the general health of patients with geriatric depression. This study investigated the brain connectivity changes associated with Tai Chi Chih and HEW in combination with antidepressant treatment in patients with geriatric depression.
Methods: Forty patients with GD under stable antidepressant treatment underwent Tai Chi Chih training (n = 21) or HEW training (n = 19) for 12 weeks, and completed baseline and 3-month follow-up resting state magnetic resonance imaging scans. Within-group and between-group differences in parcel-to-parcel connectivity changes with intervention were evaluated by general linear modeling. Relationships between significant connectivity changes and symptom/resilience improvement were evaluated by partial least squares correlation analysis.
Results: Significantly greater increases in connectivity with Tai Chi Chih than with HEW (FDR-corrected p < .05) were observed for 167 pairwise connections, most frequently involving the default mode network (DMN). In both groups, increased connectivity involving largely DMN regions was significantly and positively correlated with improvement in symptoms/resilience.
Limitations: The sample size was relatively small, mainly due to neuroimaging contraindications (e.g., implants). Additionally, the standard antidepressant treatment varied greatly among patients, adding heterogeneity.
Conclusions: Non-pharmacological adjuncts, such as Tai Chi Chih, may enhance DMN connectivity changes associated with improved depressive symptoms and psychological resilience in the treatment of geriatric depression.