Davis Phinney Grant Award for Tai Chi and Parkinson's Study

Posted On: October 23rd, 2014

Peter Wayne, PhD, Research Director, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine

Loss of mobility is a primary concern for individuals with Parkinson’s Disease (PD), leading to reduced ability to accomplish functional tasks, impaired balance, increased fall risk, and an overall reduced quality of life. Exercise is an integral part of the management of PD, but optimal types and regimes of exercise have yet to be defined.

Watch the 5-minute video to learn more about how Tai Chi can impact the lives of individuals with Parkinson’s Disease.

Tai Chi is a multi-component mind-body exercise that is growing in popularity due to its demonstrated effects on multiple aspects of physical and cognitive health, and that shows promise as an intervention for delaying the progression of PD.

Peter Wayne, the Osher Center Research Director was recently awarded a grant from the Davis Phinney Foundation for a study entitled: “Tai Chi for Enhancing Cognitive-Motor Interactions in Parkinson’s Disease.” The grant will support a pilot study to evaluate how Tai Chi impacts both motor and cognitive function, as well as their interaction during everyday activities (e.g. walking while performing a distracting mental task. With collaboration from neuroscientists Dr. Michael Fox (BIDMC) and Emily Stern (BWH), the study will also use state of the art functional neuroimaging to understand how any Tai Chi related changes to cognitive and motor performance directly impact the brain.

The studies are significant and innovative because little is known about the neurological networks underlying cognitive-motor interactions and gait health in PD, or how non-pharmacological therapies like Tai Chi enhance cognitive-motor health. Elucidating these neurophysiological mechanism is likely to increase the acceptance and utilization of mind-body interventions like Tai Chi by both physicians and patients. Other key collaborations include Drs. Daniel Tarsy (BIDMC), Lewis Sudarsky (BWH) and Paolo Bonato (SRH).