Exercise moderates age-related atrophy of the medial temporal lobe

Neurobiol Aging. 2011 Mar;32(3):506-14. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2009.03.008. Epub 2009 Apr 21.


Regional deterioration of brain structure is a typical feature of aging, but emerging evidence suggests that exercise may mitigate the decline. The purpose of the present investigation was to examine the moderating influence of exercise engagement on cross-sectional estimates of age-related brain atrophy at both global and regional levels. Estimates of exercise engagement over the past 10 years and MRI-based measures of global (gray and white) and regional volumes were obtained in a sample of 52 healthy older adults aged 55-79. Volume estimates were obtained in prefrontal, parietal, temporal, occipital, neostriatal, and medial temporal regions. Higher levels of exercise engagement were related to larger superior frontal volumes. Most critically, exercise engagement selectively moderated age-related medial temporal lobe atrophy. Specifically, significant age-related atrophy was observed for older adults who engaged in low levels of exercise, but not for those who engaged in high levels of exercise. This novel finding extends support for the efficacy of exercise to the potential maintenance of medial temporal lobe integrity in older adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Atrophy / rehabilitation
  • Brain Mapping
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Linear Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology*
  • Young Adult