Exercise Increases Gray Matter in Adults With Mild Cognitive Impairment

November 30, 2016

MRI shows exercise may help adults with mild cognitive impairment.

MRI demonstrated that adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who exercised regularly experienced an increase in brain volume in specific, or local, areas of the brain, according to a study presented at RSNA 2016.

Researchers from Wake Forest School of Medicine (WFSM) in Winston-Salem, NC, performed a randomized controlled trial to characterize the brain degeneration profiles for subjects with MCI under different intensities of exercise intervention.

Thirty-five adults with MCI underwent MR imaging six months before starting an exercise program (16 patients doing aerobic exercise and 19 patients in the stretching control trial) and again six months after. Volumetric and directional/shear deformation parameters were derived from the image registration and all parameter maps were warped to standard MNI152_T1 space. Voxel wise statistical analysis was applied to see the effects of the type of exercise intervention.

The results showed that both aerobic and stretching exercise groups experienced volumetric increases in most regions of the gray matter. "Even over a short period of time, we saw aerobic exercise lead to a remarkable change in the brain," lead investigator, Laura D. Baker, PhD, said in a release. Right posterior corona radiata showed volumetric contraction in stretching control. Different volumetric increases were observed between groups around the genu of corpus callosum, right middle temporal gyrus and bilateral superior frontal gyri, showing higher volumetric expansions. Directional/shear deformation patterns also showed similar patterns with volume changes in most statistically significant brain regions.

"Directional changes in the brain without local volume changes could be a novel biomarker for neurological disease," co-investigator Jeongchul Kim, PhD, said in the same release. "It may be a more sensitive marker for the tiny changes that occur in a specific brain region before volumetric changes are detectable on MRI."