Published on: September 14, 2015
by Kathleen Lees for Science World Report:
Staying physically active into old age can help your mind stay fit, too.
New findings published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience reveal that older adults with higher cardiorespiratory fitness levels also had increased brain volume in key regions of the organ.
“Previous studies have shown that there’s a relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and behavioral performance in older adults. Other studies have looked at cardiorespiratory fitness and brain function, but really linking all three of those hasn’t been quite been done as explicitly as we did in this paper,” said Chelsea Wong, a M.D./Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois and first author on the paper, in a news release.
A team of researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois discovered a connection between brain activation, cardiorespiratory fitness and exectutive function among older adults, noting how dual-task processing in a core executive function brain region is associated with higher cardiorespiratory fitness and dual-task performance.
In this recent study, the researchers examined brain imaging and fitness level data from 128 adults between the ages of 59-80. They used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, revealing certain regions of the brain that were activated more when performing two simultaneous tasks compared to a single task.
“The reason we looked at dual-task specifically is because it’s a measure of executive function, which is required for multiple cognitive processes, such as working memory, task management, coordination, and inhibition,” said Wong. “We know that as people age, executive function declines, so we found that with higher cardiorespiratory fitness, you can enhance executive function performance behaviorally as well as executive function-related brain activation.”
Findings revealed that the overall relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness levels and higher executive function may be explained, in part, through the activation in a region of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex and the supplementary motor area.
“This research adds to our growing understanding of the relationship among physical activity and cognitive and brain function–and suggests that we can improve our brain health by changing our lifestyle even as we age,” the researchers concluded.
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