Effects of exercise types on white matter microstructure in late midlife adults: Preliminary results from a diffusion tensor imaging study

Author: Feng-Tzu Chen1, Hideaki Soya2,3, Michael A Yassa3,4,5, Ruei-Hong Li6, Chien-Heng Chu6, Ai-Guo Chen7, Chiao-Ling Hung8,9, Yu-Kai Chang6,10
Affiliation: <sup>1</sup> Department of Sports Medicine, China Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan. <sup>2</sup> Laboratory of Exercise Biochemistry and Neuroendocrinology, Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan. <sup>3</sup> Sports Neuroscience Division, Department of Mind, Advanced Research Initiative for Human High Performance (ARIHHP), Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan. <sup>4</sup> Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA, United States. <sup>5</sup> Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA, United States. <sup>6</sup> Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan. <sup>7</sup> College of Physical Education, Yangzhou University, Yangzhou, China. <sup>8</sup> Masters in Sport Facility Management and Health Promotion, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan. <sup>9</sup> Department of Athletics, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan. <sup>10</sup> Institute for Research Excellence in Learning Science, National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan.
Conference/Journal: Front Aging Neurosci
Date published: 2022 Nov 18
Other: Volume ID: 14 , Pages: 943992 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2022.943992. , Word Count: 296

Higher aerobic fitness during late midlife is associated with higher white matter (WM) microstructure. Compared with individuals engaged in irregular exercise, those who engage in regular aerobic exercise show higher fractional anisotropy (FA), a diffusion tenor imaging (DTI) measure that provides an index of WM microstructural integrity. However, whether other types of exercise, such as Tai Chi, can also facilitate WM changes in adults during late midlife remains unknown. The present study compares two types of exercise, Tai Chi and walking, with a sedentary control group, in order to examine the effects of exercise on WM microstructure and determine the regional specificity of WM differences. Thirty-six healthy adults between the ages of 55 and 65 years participated in the study. Based on the participants' exercise habits, they were allocated into three groups: Tai Chi, walking, or sedentary control. All participants were required to complete physical fitness measurements and completed magnetic reasoning imaging (MRI) scans. Our results revealed that the Tai Chi group exhibited a higher FA value in the left cerebral peduncle, compared to the sedentary control group. We also observed that both the Tai Chi and walking groups exhibited higher FA values in the right uncinate fasciculus and the left external capsule, in comparison to the sedentary control group. Increased FA values in these regions was positively correlated with higher levels of physical fitness measurements (i.e., peak oxygen uptake [VO2peak], muscular endurance/number of push-up, agility, power). These findings collectively suggest that regular exercise is associated with improved WM microstructural integrity, regardless of the exercise type, which could guide the development and application of future prevention and intervention strategies designed to address age-related cognitive impairments during late midlife.

Keywords: Tai Chi; Taijiquan; cognitive function; exercise type; fractional anisotropy; white microstructure.

PMID: 36466603 PMCID: PMC9716128 DOI: 10.3389/fnagi.2022.943992