Tai Chi could alleviate depression, while the biological mechanisms underlying this effect remains unelucidated.
This study recruited 18 community-dwelling older persons with a pre-post testing design, aiming to unveil the potential epigenetic effect by which Tai Chi in the alleviation of depression, using methylation of BDNF promoter as the biomarker.
The methylation levels (determined by pyrosequencing using saliva samples) of the targeted BDNF sequence were positively associated with the existence and severity of depressive symptoms (measured with the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire). Both methylation levels and depression decreased significantly after the Tai Chi intervention.
Demethylation of BDNF promoter might be one of the potential mechanisms underlying the holistic depression alleviating effect of Tai Chi. BDNF methylation may potentially serve as a screening, diagnostic as well as disease activity biomarker to determine treatment effects for depression.
Further adequately powered studies are needed to verify and strengthen our findings.