Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Cardiovascular Exercise Improves the Aging Brain

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Cardiovascular Exercise Improves the Aging Brain

Article excerpt

SANTA FE, N.M. -- Cardiovascular exercise improves cognitive performance and cortical function in elderly people, and it also appears to roll back age-related losses in brain volume, according to a series of studies described by Stanley J. Colcombe, Ph.D., at the annual meeting of the Society for Psychophysiological Research.

The first two studies, conducted by the same investigators and already published (Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 2004; 101:3316-21), involved cross-sectional and longitudinal comparisons on the performance of the Eriksen flanker paradigm, which requires participants to identify the direction of the central arrow in an array of five congruent or incongruent arrows (<<<<< or <<><<).

The cross-sectional study involved 41 high-functioning, community-dwelling adults who were aged 67 years on average, said Dr. Colcombe of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Investigators tested patients' preexisting cardiovascular fitness and compared flanker-task performance of those who fell above and below median fitness levels. Subjects who fell above the median on cardiovascular fitness showed significantly smaller amounts of interference by incongruent cues in the flanker task as measured by their reaction time, he said.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of subjects engaged in this task demonstrated that the group with higher cardiovascular fitness had significantly greater activity in the medial frontal gyrus, the superior frontal gyrus, and the inferior parietal lobule, and significantly lower activity in the anterior cingulate cortex. …

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