The benefits of aerobic exercise for cognitive function in older age.

We have known for decades now that regular exercise can be beneficial, not just for the health of the body but also for the brain and cognitive processes. Previous studies have found that older adults who are highly active, exercising daily can recruit task-related brain regions as easily as young adults. Although the association between exercise and cognitive function has been known for decades very little research has been conducted into this effect at the neurological level.

A recent piece of research from Japan has investigated the neurology that underpins the exercise and cognition effect in adults of 70 years and older. In the study 60 adults were recruited. The participants exercised regularly and performed a popular cognitive task, the Stroop (a test for impulsivity). On the Stroop a colour (of the text) and word interaction is manipulated as an index of impulsivity.

Functional near-infrared spectroscopic (fNIRS) recordings and behavioural measures indicated that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) benefitted from the exercise. Lower rates of interference from the Stroop task were observed in the older adults who exercised. These results suggest that high aerobic fitness is associate with cognitive function through lateralised frontal activation in adults of over 70 years.

Therefore, this study shows that staying active in older age when retired can help can aid in maintaining a healthy brain in old age.

Source article: Hyodo et al (2016).

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Daniel Edgcumbe

I am studying towards my PhD in cognitive neuroscience at a leading London university

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