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Research finds link between poor physical fitness and weak brain fibers, increased risk of dementia


Cardiorespiratory fitness is linked to positive levels of white matter in the brain, which can help improve the brain function of people with mild cognitive impairment. This, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center found out in a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

  • The study focused on brain tissue called white matter – a substance made up of millions of bundled nerve fibers that are used by neurons to send signals to one another.
  • For the study, researchers tapped older patients who exhibited mild cognitive impairment such as memory loss, which is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The trials involved 81 participants, which included people with normal brain function and those that displayed mild cognitive impairment.
  • Researchers evaluated an individual’s cardiorespiratory fitness with a formula called maximal oxygen uptake, and brain imaging was utilized to study the functionality of white matter in each participant.
  • Moreover, memory and cognitive tests were provided to evaluate brain function. This was done so that researchers can study the link between exercise, brain health, and cognition.
  • The findings indicated that maximum oxygen uptake positively affected white matter fiber integrity.

Researchers concluded that higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness are linked with better white matter integrity, which is linked to improved brain function

Journal Reference:

Ding K, Tarumi T, Zhu DC, Tseng BY, Thomas BP, Turner M, Repshas J, Kerwin DR, Womack KB, Lu H, et al. CARDIORESPIRATORY FITNESS AND FIBER INTEGRITY IN MILD COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT. Journal of Alzheimers Disease. 2017;61(2):729–739. DOI: 10.3233/JAD-170415

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