There is a definite connection between brain activation, cardio-respiratory fitness and executive function (which helps with reasoning and problem solving) in older adults, new research shows.
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Previous studies have shown that there is a relationship between cardio-respiratory fitness and behavioural performance in older adults.
Other studies have looked at cardio-respiratory fitness and brain function.
"But linking all three of those has not been quite been done as explicitly as we did in this paper," said Chelsea Wong from University of Illinois
The team examined brain imaging and fitness level data from 128 adults between the ages of 59-80.
With functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, the team found that certain regions of the brain were activated more when performing two simultaneous tasks compared to a single task.
The team found the overall relationship between cardio-respiratory 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.
"It is an important area for higher level functions, such as conflict monitoring, multitasking, and dual-task processing itself," Wong said.
The research adds to our growing understanding of the relationship among physical activity and cognitive and brain function.
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"It suggests that we can improve our brain health by changing our lifestyle even as we age," the author said in a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.
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