Brain Connectivity and Fitness in Older Adults

Here is yet another study that demonstrates a correlation between a moderate level of physical fitness and a slower progression of specific aspects of aging in the brain. The conventional wisdom is that this sort of association is mediated by the effects of fitness on cardiovascular health, slowing the deterioration of blood vessel networks in the brain and the damage caused by their structural failure. There are no doubt numerous other mechanisms at work as well, however:

A new study shows that age-related differences in brain health - specifically the strength of connections between different regions of the brain - vary with fitness level in older adults. The findings suggest that greater cardiorespiratory fitness - a measure of aerobic endurance - relates to stronger brain connections and likely improves long-term brain function in aging populations. There are many ways to measure brain health across the lifespan. One popular technique measures the strength of connections between different parts of the brain while the person is completing a task or during wakeful rest. The latter is known as resting-state functional connectivity. Research has shown that some of these connections weaken with increasing age and indicate deteriorating brain health. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, researchers measured the strength of these connections throughout the brain in younger and older adults at rest. As expected, the team confirmed that most connections were weaker for older adults when compared with younger adults.

Building on these findings, the researchers examined the role of cardiorespiratory fitness on resting-brain connectivity in older adults. Fitness is determined by how efficiently someone uses oxygen during physical activity such as running on a treadmill. Other factors aside from habitual physical activity may alter how fitness affects brain health. For example, a person's genetic makeup can influence his or her fitness and general brain health. The researchers found a relationship between fitness and the strength of the connections between certain brain regions in older adults at rest that was independent of their level of physical activity. "An encouraging pattern in the data from our study and others is that the benefits of fitness seem to occur within the low-to-moderate range of endurance, suggesting that the benefits of fitness for the brain may not depend on being extremely fit. The idea that fitness could be related to brain health regardless of one's physical activity levels is intriguing because it suggests there could be clues in how the body adapts for some people more than others from regular activity. This will help our understanding of how fitness protects against age-related cognitive decline and dementia."

Link: https://illinois.edu/blog/view/6367/274238

Comments

Hi all,

An interesting study, it ties with the result of the GDF-10 study and brain IGF-1 receptors/IGF-1 levels studies that show brain needs some kind of growth signal for neurogenesis (see BDNF, Brain Derived Neutrophic Factor), it's ironic because some studies compared people doing hard engaging mental stuff vs people doing strong exercise and they found out neurogenesis in the exercising ones (you'd think Thinking was better, nope, exercising is, sitting on your behind and being mental is (only so) good. Still, certain chess player masters played their whole life and lived to be centenarians, so the chess thinking had something to do with it as it restructures brain connnectivity towards mental fitness, yet they were not big exercise people). Short bouts of intense exercise or low exercise increase growth hormones production (brain growth IGF axis), activate PGC-1a energy metabolism regulator, and thus this signal is straight to the brain to fabricate BDNF, BDNF improves neurons number). IGF-1 receptor activation is behind this orchestration and improves brain hemisphere connectivity. Dementia-like, senile, degenerated mentally elders have low IGF-1 receptor/IGF-1 levels in their brains. Their neuron number are lower, dying and they accumulate faster tau/abeta amyloid senile plaques that cause Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Lewy Body Dementia, etc.

Still, this exercise effect is limited and genetics take over later on, exercise is still very important in late age but it comes down to genes.
My uncle recently died, a year ago in november, of Alzheimer's disease, he was 73 years old, he was in perfect shape, fit thin, had his wits quite late and was bicycle marathon runner doer and whole nine yards (doing kms of bike from city to another all in late age and for his entire life)...he did so much exercise, I think it accelerated the problem in excess but it may have also slowed dramatically a much earlier death, so it dampened his disease and pushed it back maybe a couple of years. But this means, genes took over and exercise was then futile, he was predisposed in his genes to get Alzheimer's and he could only postpone it a bit and exercise helped (as shown by GDF-10/IGF-1/PGC by exercise induced BDNF neurogenesis) a little.
Perhaps if he had played more chess and done less bike, he might have lived longer like those centenarian chessmasters playing chess till death fully lucid and with no Alzheimer's (got to remember where those pieces go and move to, must not forget keys hanging in the door too)(so far studies say otherwise and again, mental exercise (not physical exercise) is very helpful but it doesn't generate the same survival signals as body activation by physical exercise - let's combine both, some mental and some physical exercise is important to get full benefit; but as my uncle's example shows, it's down to genes when you hit 60).

1.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4254093/

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