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Attention, couch potatoes! Walking boosts brain connectivity, function
Date:8/26/2010

lt mode network and they tend to have less connectivity," she said. Low connectivity means that the different parts of the circuit are not operating in sync. Like poorly trained athletes on a rowing team, the brain regions that make up the circuit lack coordination and so do not function at optimal efficiency or speed, Voss said.

In a healthy young brain, activity in the DMN quickly diminishes when a person engages in an activity that requires focus on the external environment. Older people, people with Alzheimer's disease and those who are schizophrenic have more difficulty "down-regulating" the DMN so that other brain networks can come to the fore, Kramer said.

A recent study by Kramer, Voss and their colleagues found that older adults who are more fit tend to have better connectivity in specific regions of the DMN than their sedentary peers. Those with more connectivity in the DMN also tend to be better at planning, prioritizing, strategizing and multi-tasking.

The new study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine whether aerobic activity increased connectivity in the DMN or other brain networks. The researchers measured participants' brain connectivity and performance on cognitive tasks at the beginning of the study, at six months and after a year of either walking or toning and stretching.

At the end of the year, DMN connectivity was significantly improved in the brains of the older walkers, but not in the stretching and toning group, the researchers report.

The walkers also had increased connectivity in parts of another brain circuit (the fronto-executive network, which aids in the performance of complex tasks) and they did significantly better on cognitive tests than their toning and stretching peers.

Previous studies have found that aerobic exercise can enhance the function of specific brain structures, Kramer said. This study shows that even moderate aerobic exercise also improve
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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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