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Fitness, independent of physical activity is associated with cerebral blood flow in adults at risk for Alzheimer’s disease

Abstract

Patterns of decreased resting cerebral blood flow (CBF) within the inferior temporal gyri, angular gyri, and posterior cingulate are a feature of aging and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and have shown to be predictive of cognitive decline among older adults. Fitness and physical activity are both associated with many indices of brain health and may positively influence CBF, however, the majority of research to date has examined these measures in isolation, leaving the potential independent associations unknown. The purpose of this study was to determine the unique contributions of fitness and physical activity when predicting CBF in cognitively healthy adults at risk for AD. One hundred participants (63% female) from the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention underwent a maximal exercise test, physical activity monitoring, and a 3-D arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging scan. For the entire sample, fitness was significantly associated with CBF while accounting for physical activity, age, gender, APOE ε4, family history of AD, education, and handedness (p = .026). Further, fitness explained significantly more variance than the combined effect of the covariates on CBF (R2 change = .059; p = .047). These results appear to be gender dependent, our data suggest fitness level, independent of physical activity, is associated with greater CBF in regions that are known to decline with age and AD for female (p = .011), but not male participants.

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Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge Jennifer Oh for her assistance in the data analysis and the support of researchers and staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for their assistance in recruitment and data collection. Above all, the authors thank their dedicated volunteers for their participation in this research.

This work was supported by National Institute on Aging grants K23 AG045957 (OCO), R21 AG051858 (OCO), R01 AG027161 (SCJ), R01 AG021155 (SCJ), P50 AG033514 (SA); and by a Clinical and Translational Science Award (UL1RR025011) to the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Portions of this research were supported by the Extendicare Foundation, the Alzheimer’s Association, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the Helen Bader Foundation, Northwestern Mutual Foundation, and the Veterans Administration including facilities and resources at the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center of the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, Madison, WI. Ryan J. Dougherty was supported by a National Research Service Award from the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number F31AG062009. Jacob B. Lindheimer was supported by Career Development Award Number IK2 CX001679 from the United States (U.S.) Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Sciences R&D (CSR&D) Service. The contents do not represent the views of the National Institutes of Health, Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Government.

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Ryan J. Dougherty, Elizabeth A. Boots, Jacob B. Lindheimer, Aaron J. Stegner, Stephanie Van Riper, Dorothy F. Edwards, Catherine L. Gallagher, Cynthia M. Carlsson, Howard A. Rowley, Barbara B. Bendlin, Sanjay Asthana, Bruce P. Hermann, Mark A. Sager, Sterling C. Johnson, Ozioma C. Okonkwo, and Dane B. Cook declare no conflicts of interest.

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All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Dougherty, R.J., Boots, E.A., Lindheimer, J.B. et al. Fitness, independent of physical activity is associated with cerebral blood flow in adults at risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Brain Imaging and Behavior 14, 1154–1163 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11682-019-00068-w

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Keywords

  • Cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Physical fitness
  • \( \dot{\mathrm{V}} \)O2peak
  • Arterial spin labeling
  • Accelerometer