Many recent studies have investigated the relationship between exercise and cognition, generally reporting that fitness is linked to improved cognition, especially in older adults. A new study from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) researched how aerobic fitness in young adults is related to memory. The study demonstrates that greater aerobic fitness was linked to greater volume in the brain’s entorhinal cortex, a region associated with memory. The findings are a piece of the puzzle linking exercise and cognitive health.
For the study, healthy young adults (aged 18 to 35) underwent tests of memory and aerobic capacity. During the memory recognition task, the researchers observed the participants’ brain patterns using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). To test aerobic capacity, participants ran or walked on a treadmill while the researchers measured the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in their breath. The researchers also measured the brain’s entorhinal and hippocampal volume (both responsible for memory) using a method called voxel-based morphometry. Finally, they analyzed whether memory recognition and aerobic fitness predicted the volume of the entorhinal cortex and the hippocampus.
Aerobic fitness was correlated with entorhinal volume. Young adults with higher levels of aerobic fitness had greater volume in their entorhinal cortex. Aerobic fitness was not associated with hippocampal volume or with performance on the memory recognition task. However, participants with greater entorhinal cortex volume performed better on the memory task.
“Our results suggest that aerobic exercise may have a positive effect on the medial temporal lobe memory system (which includes the entorhinal cortex) in healthy young adults. This suggests that exercise training, when designed to increase aerobic fitness, might have a positive effect on the brain in healthy young adults,” stated principal investigator of the study Karin Schon, Ph.D, assistant professor of anatomy and neurobiology at BUSM.
This research is published in the journal Neuroimage.
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