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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Richard van Emmerik

Subject Categories

Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Movement and Mind-Body Therapies | Nervous System Diseases


Introduction: Tai Chi and meditation have led to improved quality of life, and reduced fatigue and depressive symptoms in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Tai Chi interventions have successfully improved balance, however the few studies evaluating meditation impact on motor skill improvement have reported conflicting results. Benefits of meditation on improving alertness and attention have been reported, but it is unknown whether these benefits might extend to physical balance. Objective: determine the impact of an 8-week Tai Chi or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) intervention on physical balance, psychosocial wellbeing, and sensorimotor function; and whether benefits are retained after a washout period. Methods: N=8 participants (7F, 1M) ages 47.3±14, Patient Determined Disease Steps: 2.25±1.3, subtypes (5 RR, 2 PP, 1 SP) were assigned to either the Tai Chi or MBSR class. Three data collections occurred at: baseline, post 8-week intervention, and post 2-week washout. The average intervention practice time for all participants was 28.9±5.7 hours. Measures: Physical balance included quiet standing, narrow standing, forward reach and backwards lean trials, sit-to-stand (STS), and timed-up-and-go (TUG) trials obtained via APDM inertial sensors. Psychosocial data were obtained with fatigue, balance confidence, coping, and MSIS-29 questionnaires, and sensorimotor data included plantar vibration sensitivity and foot tapping performance. Results: Both groups improved their forwards reach characteristics, STS, fatigue severity and MSIS-29 disease impact scores. Additionally, Tai Chi may improve backwards lean characteristics, balance confidence, coping, and foot tapping inter-tap interval and coefficient of variance. MBSR may beneficially impact standing with narrow base of support. Both groups retained some beneficial postural characteristics, fatigue scores, MSIS-29 Disease impact, and STS ability. Additionally, Tai Chi retained balance confidence and coping, and some foot tapping parameters. Conclusion: Both interventions appear to improve physical balance, psychosocial wellbeing, and sensorimotor function; however further research is needed to clarify if these trends remain within a larger population.