Tai Chi mindfulness training could reduce ADHD symptoms

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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a highly prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder affecting between 8-10% of school-age children.

In a new study, researchers found that a mindful movement (Tai-Chi)-based training intervention was linked to big improvements in school-age children with ADHD and improved their ability to regulate hyperactive, impulsive, and inattentive behavior.

The findings suggest that motor control may be a biomarker that could be targeted by mindful movement intervention to improve behavior in children with ADHD.

The research was conducted by a team at Kennedy Krieger Institute and elsewhere.

Children ages 8-12 years engaged in an eight-week mindful movement intervention with two 60-minute classes per week. Pre- vs. post-treatment ADHD symptoms were assessed using highly validated parent-ratings.

The team found that following the intervention, children showed significant reductions in core ADHD symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention, as well as improvements in associated oppositional-defiant and executive behavior.

Children also showed big improvements in objective measures of motor control.

Importantly, there was a robust correlation between these findings, such that the children who showed the largest improvements on motor examination also showed the largest improvements in parent ratings of ADHD behavior.

The findings from this study provide support for a promising new behavioral intervention for children with ADHD and related difficulties.

Crucially, mindful movement intervention contributes to parallel improvements in motor control, such that motor examination might serve as a valuable biomarker, helping to monitor response to this promising intervention.

An important next step will be to conduct a clinical study with a control condition to ensure that efficacy is specific to the mindful movement intervention.

The lead author of the study is Stewart H. Mostofsky, M.D., the director of the Center for Neurodevelopmental and Imaging Research at Kennedy Krieger Institute

The study is published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.

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