Effects of aerobic exercise on brain metabolism & grey matter in older adults
Stable choline concentrations in the intervention group over the 3 month period might indicate a neuroprotective effect of aerobic exercise. Choline might constitute a valid marker for an effect of aerobic exercise on cerebral metabolism in healthy aging.
Matura, S. et al. (2017). Effects of aerobic exercise on brain metabolism and grey matter volume in older adults: results of the randomised controlled SMART trial. Translational Psychiatry. 7, e1172; doi:10.1038/tp.2017.135. Published online 18 July 2017.
The present study used magnetic resonance spectroscopy and quantitative MRI to systematically explore the effects of physical activity on human brain metabolism and grey matter (GM) volume in healthy aging. This is a randomised controlled assessor-blinded two-armed trial (n=53) to explore exercise-induced neuroprotective and metabolic effects on the brain in cognitively healthy older adults. Participants (age >65) were allocated to a 12-week individualised aerobic exercise programme intervention (n=29) or a 12-week waiting control group (n=24).
The main outcomes were the change in cerebral metabolism and its association to brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels as well as changes in GM volume. Cerebral choline concentrations remained stable after 12 weeks of aerobic exercise in the intervention group, whereas they increased in the waiting control group. No effect of training was seen on cerebral N-acetyl-aspartate concentrations, nor on markers of neuronal energy reserve or BDNF levels or in cortical GM volume. As choline is a marker of neurodegeneration, this finding suggests a neuroprotective effect of aerobic exercise. Overall, our findings indicate that cerebral tCho might constitute a valid marker for an effect of aerobic exercise on the brain in healthy aging.