Effects of aerobic exercise on brain metabolism and grey matter volume in older adults: results of the randomised controlled SMART trial.Transl Psychiatry. 2017 07 18; 7(7):e1172.TP
There is mounting evidence that aerobic exercise has a positive effect on cognitive functions in older adults. To date, little is known about the neurometabolic and molecular mechanisms underlying this positive effect. 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. We found that 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. Further, we observed no change in cortical GM volume in response to aerobic exercise. The finding of 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.