Exercise in childhood can maintain and promote cognitive function later in life: study
An international research group has shed light on changes in the brain’s neural network and cortical structure that underlie the positive association between exercise in childhood and the maintenance and promotion of cognitive function later in life.
The results published in the academic journal NeuroImage explain that people who are physically active during childhood have higher cognitive functions later in life.
Participants who exercised as children performed better on cognitive tests, regardless of their current age. However, no such relationship has been found between task performance and post-childhood exercise, suggesting that exercise in childhood is particularly important for brain development and cognitive health in the early years. long term.
Researchers have shown that people who are physically active during childhood (up to 12 years old) have higher cognitive functions later in life. However, they could not find a correlation between cognitive function and post-childhood physical activity. The positive association between exercise in childhood and cognitive function was evident in modular segregation (* 1) of brain networks, enhanced inter-hemispheric connectivity, greater cortical thickness, lower levels of dendritic arborization and reduced density. During childhood, the formation of the brain network is sensitive to environmental and experience factors. Exercise during this time is believed to optimize brain network development and is linked to the maintenance and promotion of cognitive function later in life. Research over the past decade has shown that exercise in childhood affects the development of cognitive functions.
Recent findings have indicated that these benefits of exercise in childhood extend to maintaining and promoting cognitive function in middle age and later in life. However, the changes in the functionality and structure of the brain related to this positive association have yet to be highlighted.
This research study examined the relationship between physical activity in childhood and cognitive function later in life, using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to shed light on structural and functional changes in the brain that are at the origin of this relationship.
The research group conducted a study of 214 participants aged 26 to 69 to investigate the relationship between exercise in childhood and cognitive function, as well as the underlying functional and structural neural networks and structure. cortical. Childhood exercise was assessed via a questionnaire.
One aspect of cognitive function, response inhibition (the ability to suppress inappropriate behavior), was measured using a Go / No-go task. The MRI image data was analyzed and the following were calculated: structural and functional connectivity (* 2), cortical thickness, myelination, degree of dispersion of neurite orientation and density index.
The brain was divided into 360 zones according to the Human Connectome project (* 3), and functional and structural parameters were obtained for each zone. In the statistical analysis, the information obtained through the questionnaire was used as confounding factors. This included the educational level of each participant, the educational level of the parents, the number of siblings and exercise in adulthood.
First, the researchers analyzed the relationship between whether participants exercised as children and the performance of Go / No-go tasks (false alarm rate).
They found that participants who exercised during their childhood (up to age 12) had a lower false alarm rate than those who did not (Figure 1). In addition, this correlation was found regardless of the age of the participant. However, no such relationship was found between task performance and post-childhood exercise.
Next, the research group studied the structural and functional connectivity in the brain related to the performance of Go / No-go tasks in participants who exercised as children.
From these results, they confirmed that in terms of structural connectivity in the brain, there were positive (Figure 2A: connections shown in red) and negative (Figure 2A: connections shown in blue) associations between exercise during childhood and the rate of false alarms. in the Go / No-go task. Large-scale network connectivity was found in more than half (73%) of structurally connected areas that were positively associated with the false alarm rate of Go / No-go tasks (Figure 2B, left panel).
On the other hand, inter-hemispherical connectivity was found in the majority (88 percent) of structurally connected areas that were negatively associated with the false alarm rate of the task (Figure 2B, right panel). In terms of connections between functional domains, connections showing positive associations (Figure 3A: connections shown in red) with the false alarm rate of the Go / No-go task were identified in participants who performed exercise during childhood, but no negatively associated connection was found.
Additionally, large scale network connectivity was found in the majority (91%) of the connected areas that were positively associated with the false alarm rate of the task (Figure 3B, left panel).
In participants who did not exercise during childhood, no structural or functional connectivity was identified in relation to the false alarm rate in the Go / No-go task. Finally, the researchers studied parameters of cortical structure in relation to the rate of false Go / No-go alarms for participants who exercised as children.
They found that task performance was negatively associated with cortical density and positively associated with the degree of dispersion and density of neurite orientation.
The above results demonstrate that the modular segregation and enhanced interhemispheric connections in the brain networks of people who exercised in childhood reduced the number of errors they made in the Go / No task. -go. (ANI)
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