Posted on Aug 02, 2016, 6 a.m.
Cardiorespiratory fitness activates two areas of the brain that enable dual-task processing.
Previous research has found that a high level of cardiorespiratory fitness in older adults is associated with better executive function of the brain. To try and understand how fitness promotes executive function, Art Kramer, Beckman Institute director and professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Illinois, and colleagues examined brain imaging and fitness level data from 128 adults between the ages of 59-80. Results showed that activation of two regions of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the supplementary motor area (SMA) – important areas for higher level functions, such as conflict monitoring, multitasking, and dual-task processing – was associated with higher cardiorespiratory fitness. Executive function of the brain is known to decline with age; however the results of this study suggest that it is possible to enhance executive function by maintaining a high level of cardiorespiratory fitness. "This research adds to our growing understanding of the relationship among physical activity and cognitive and brain function – and suggests that we can improve our brain health by changing our lifestyle even as we age," concluded Professor Kramer.
Wong CN, Chaddock-Heyman L, Voss MW, et al. Brain activation during dual-task processing is associated with cardiorespiratory fitness and performance in older adults. Front Aging Neurosci. 2015;7:154.