Adding to the benefits of exercising, a new study from a team at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois has revealed about the connection between fitness level, brain activity and executive function in older adults. The findings suggest that dual-task processing in a core executive function brain region is associated with higher cardiorespiratory fitness and dual-task performance.
First author Chelsea Wong said, "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 they did in this paper."
The research team, led by Art Kramer, examined brain imaging and fitness level data from 128 adults between the ages of 59-80 years. With functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans gathered in the Beckman Institute's Biomedical Imaging Center, they found that certain regions of the brain were activated more when performing two simultaneous tasks compared to a single task.
The research team also found the overall relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness levels and higher executive function may be partially explained through activation in a region of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex and the supplementary motor area (ACC/SMA).
Kramer said, "This research adds to our growing understanding of the relationship among physical activity and cognitive and brain function and suggests that people can improve the brain health by changing their lifestyle even as they age."
The study is published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.