Strength gains after 12 weeks of resistance training correlate with neurochemical markers of brain health in older adults: a randomized control 1H-MRS study

Geroscience. 2023 Jun;45(3):1837-1855. doi: 10.1007/s11357-023-00732-6. Epub 2023 Jan 26.


Physical exercise is considered a potent countermeasure against various age-associated physiological deterioration processes. We therefore assessed the effect of 12 weeks of resistance training on brain metabolism in older adults (age range: 60-80 years). Participants either underwent two times weekly resistance training program which consisted of four lower body exercises performed for 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions at 70-85% of 1 repetition maximum (n = 20) or served as the passive control group (n = 21). The study used proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy to quantify the ratio of total N-acetyl aspartate, total choline, glutamate-glutamine complex, and myo-inositol relative to total creatine (tNAA/tCr, tCho/tCr, Glx/tCr, and mIns/tCr respectively) in the hippocampus (HPC), sensorimotor (SM1), and prefrontal (dlPFC) cortices. The peak torque (PT at 60°/s) of knee extension and flexion was assessed using an isokinetic dynamometer. We used repeated measures time × group ANOVA to assess time and group differences and correlation coefficient analyses to examine the pre-to-post change (∆) associations between PT and neurometabolite variables. The control group showed significant declines in tNAA/tCr and Glx/tCr of SM1, and tNAA/tCr of dlPFC after 12 weeks, which were not seen in the experimental group. A significant positive correlation was found between ∆PT knee extension and ∆SM1 Glx/tCr, ∆dlPFC Glx/tCr and between ∆PT knee flexion and ∆dlPFC mIns/tCr in the experimental group. Overall, findings suggest that resistance training seems to elicit alterations in various neurometabolites that correspond to exercise-induced "preservation" of brain health, while simultaneously having its beneficial effect on augmenting muscle functional characteristics in older adults.

Keywords: Aging; Brain metabolism; Glutamate; N-acetylaspartate; Neurogenesis; Sarcopenia; Strength training.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Glutamine* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / metabolism
  • Resistance Training*


  • Glutamine
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell