Junyeon Won, Kristy A Nielson, J Carson Smith
Background: Despite growing evidence regarding the association between exercise training (ET) and functional brain network connectivity, little is known about the effects of ET on large-scale within- and between-network functional connectivity (FC) of core brain networks.
Objective: We investigated the effects of ET on within- and between-network functional connectivity of the default mode network (DMN), frontoparietal network (FPN), and salience network (SAL) in older adults with intact cognition (CN) and older adults diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The association between ET-induced changes in FC and cognitive performance was examined.
Methods: 33 older adults (78.0±7.0 years; 16 MCI and 17 CN) participated in this study. Before and after a 12-week walking ET intervention, participants underwent a graded exercise test, Controlled Oral Word Association Test (COWAT), Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), a narrative memory test (logical memory; LM), and a resting-state fMRI scan. We examined the within (W) and between (B) network connectivity of the DMN, FPN, and SAL. We used linear regression to examine associations between ET-related changes in network connectivity and cognitive function.
Results: There were significant improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness, COWAT, RAVLT, and LM after ET across participants. Significant increases in DMNW and SALW, and DMN-FPNB, DMN-SALB, and FPN-SALB were observed after ET. Greater SALW and FPN-SALB were associated with enhanced LM immediate recall performance after ET in both groups.
Conclusion: Increased within- and between-network connectivity following ET may subserve improvements in memory performance in older individuals with intact cognition and with MCI due to Alzheimer’s disease.