Resistance training and functional plasticity of the aging brain: a 12-month randomized controlled trial

Neurobiol Aging. 2012 Aug;33(8):1690-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2011.05.010. Epub 2011 Jul 7.


Maintaining functional plasticity of the cortex is essential for healthy aging and aerobic exercise may be an effective behavioral intervention to promote functional plasticity among seniors. Whether resistance training has similar benefits on functional plasticity in seniors has received little investigation. Here we show that 12 months of twice-weekly resistance training led to functional changes in 2 regions of cortex previously associated with response inhibition processes-the anterior portion of the left middle temporal gyrus and the left anterior insula extending into lateral orbital frontal cortex-in community-dwelling senior women. These hemodynamic effects co-occurred with improved task performance. Our data suggest that resistance training improved flanker task performance in 2 ways: (1) an increased engagement of response inhibition processes when needed; and (2) a decreased tendency to prepare response inhibition as a default state. However, we highlight that this effect of resistance training was only observed among those who trained twice weekly; participants of the once-weekly resistance training did not demonstrate comparable response profiles, both in behavioral performance and hemodynamic activity in cortex. In sum, our findings suggest that twice-weekly resistance training in seniors can positively impact functional plasticity of response inhibition processes in cortex, and that it does so in a manner that complements the effects on selective attention that have previously been ascribed to aerobic exercise in seniors.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome