The effects of physical activity, education, and body mass index on the aging brain

Department of Neurology, Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California 90095-7332, USA.
Human Brain Mapping (Impact Factor: 5.97). 09/2011; 32(9):1371-82. DOI: 10.1002/hbm.21113
Source: PubMed


Normal human aging is accompanied by progressive brain tissue loss and cognitive decline; however, several factors are thought to influence brain aging. We applied tensor-based morphometry to high-resolution brain MRI scans to determine whether educational level or physical activity was associated with brain tissue volumes in the elderly, particularly in regions susceptible to age-related atrophy. We mapped the 3D profile of brain volume differences in 226 healthy elderly subjects (130F/96M; 77.9 ± 3.6 SD years) from the Cardiovascular Health Study-Cognition Study. Statistical maps revealed the 3D profile of brain regions whose volumes were associated with educational level and physical activity (based on leisure-time energy expenditure). After controlling for age, sex, and physical activity, higher educational levels were associated with ~2-3% greater tissue volumes, on average, in the temporal lobe gray matter. After controlling for age, sex, and education, greater physical activity was associated with ~2-2.5% greater average tissue volumes in the white matter of the corona radiata extending into the parietal-occipital junction. Body mass index (BMI) was highly correlated with both education and physical activity, so we examined BMI as a contributing factor by including physical activity, education, and BMI in the same model; only BMI effects remained significant. This is one of the largest MRI studies of factors influencing structural brain aging, and BMI may be a key factor explaining the observed relationship between education, physical activity, and brain structure. Independent contributions to brain structure could not be teased apart as all these factors were highly correlated with one another.

Download full-text


Available from: Paul Thompson,
    • "Covariates measured at baseline included age, sex and education [34]. Weight and body mass index (BMI) [35] was measured at follow-up. BMI was calculated as weight [kg] divided by squared height [m 2 ]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Many studies have examined the hypothesis that greater participation in physical activity (PA) is associated with less brain atrophy. Here we examine, in a sub-sample (n=352, mean age 79.1 years) of the Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility-Reykjavik Study cohort, the association of the baseline and 5-year change in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-derived volumes of gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) to active and sedentary behavior (SB) measured at the end of the 5-year period by a hip-worn accelerometer for seven consecutive days. More GM (β=0.11; p=0.044) and WM (β=0.11; p=0.030) at baseline was associated with more total physical activity (TPA). Also, when adjusting for baseline values, the 5-year change in GM (β=0.14; p=0.0037) and WM (β=0.11; p=0.030) was associated with TPA. The 5-year change in WM was associated with SB (β= -0.11; p=0.0007). These data suggest that objectively measured PA and SB late in life are associated with current and prior cross-sectional measures of brain atrophy, and that change over time is associated with PA and SB in expected directions.
    Behavioural brain research 09/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.bbr.2015.09.005 · 3.03 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "However, PA trials targeting very old adults to improve cognition appear premature at this time; most evidence to date is for younger and healthier old adults, with little information on the relative impact of other common health-related conditions on these associations. Positive associations of higher PA with greater WM volume and fewer WM lesions have been reported in adults in their 60s and 70s [9] [10] [11] [12]. A small intervention study shows exercise training increases WM volume [13]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The neuroprotective effects of physical activity (PA) are consistently shown in older adults, but the neural substrates, particularly in white matter (WM), are understudied, especially in very old adults with the fastest growth rate and the highest risk of dementia. This study quantified the association between PA and WM integrity in adults over 80. The moderating effects of cardiometabolic conditions, physical functional limitations and WM hyperintensities were also examined, as they can affect PA and brain integrity. Fractional anisotropy (FA) from normal-appearing WM via diffusion tensor imaging and WM hyperintensities were obtained in 90 participants (mean age = 87.4, 51.1% female, 55.6% white) with concurrent objective measures of steps, active energy expenditure (AEE in kcal), duration (min), and intensity (metabolic equivalents, METs) via SenseWear Armband. Clinical adjudication of cognitive status, prevalence of stroke and diabetes, systolic blood pressure, and gait speed were assessed at time of neuroimaging. Participants were on average sedentary (mean ± SD/day: 1766 ± 1345 steps, 202 ± 311 kcal, 211 ± 39 min, 1.8 ± 1.1 METs). Higher steps, AEE and duration, but not intensity, were significantly associated with higher FA. Associations were localized in frontal and temporal areas. Moderating effects of cardiometabolic conditions, physical functional limitations, and WM hyperintensities were not significant. Neither FA nor PA was related to cognitive status. Older adults with a sedentary lifestyle and a wide range of cardiometabolic conditions and physical functional limitations, displayed higher WM integrity in relation to higher PA. Studies of very old adults to quantify the role of PA in reducing dementia burden via WM integrity are warranted.
    Behavioural Brain Research 02/2015; 284. DOI:10.1016/j.bbr.2015.01.045 · 3.03 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "Antipsychotic medication is known to affect brain structure in schizophrenia patients, e.g. (Lieberman et al., 2005; Ho et al., 2011a). Although we did not observe correlations between CPE and regional brain volumes, we cannot rule out that some of the observed effects on grey matter volume may be due to antipsychotic medication, despite the relatively short observation period of 6 months. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The objective of this longitudinal magnetic resonance (MR) imaging study was to examine the effects of endurance training on hippocampal and grey matter volumes in schizophrenia patients and healthy controls. 20 chronic schizophrenia patients and 21 age- and gender-matched healthy controls underwent 3months of endurance training (30 min, 3 times perweek). 19 additionally recruited schizophrenia patients played table soccer (“foosball” in the USA) over the same period. MR imaging with 3D-volumetric T1-weighted sequences was performed on a 3 T MR scanner at baseline, after 6 weeks and after the 3-month intervention and 3 additional training-free months. In addition to voxel-based morphometry (VBM), we performed manual and automatic delineation of the hippocampus and its substructures. Endurance capacity and psychopathological symptoms were measured as secondary endpoints. No significant increases in the volumes of the hippocampus or hippocampal substructures were observed in schizophrenia patients or healthy controls. However, VBM analyses displayed an increased volume of the left superior, middle and inferior anterior temporal gyri compared to baseline in schizophrenia patients after the endurance training, whereas patients playing table soccer showed increased volumes in the motor and anterior cingulate cortices. After the additional training-free period, the differenceswere no longer present.While endurance capacity improved in exercising patients and healthy controls, psychopathological symptoms did not significantly change. The subtle changes in the left temporal cortex indicate an impact of exercise on brain volumes in schizophrenia. Subsequent studies in larger cohorts are warranted to address the question of response variability of endurance training.
    Schizophrenia Research 02/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.schres.2015.01.005 · 3.92 Impact Factor
Show more