Physically fit kids have better white brain matter

physically-fit-kidsChildren who are more aerobically fit have more fibrous and compact white matter tracts in the brain than their peers who are less fit. More compact white matter is associated with faster and more efficient nerve activity. The findings of US researchers at the University of Illinois have been published in the journal “Frontiers in Human Neuroscience”.
“Previous studies suggest that children with higher levels of aerobic fitness show greater brain volumes in grey matter brain regions important for memory and learning,” explained first author Laura Chaddock-Heyman. The team used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI, also called diffusion MRI) to look at five white matter tracts in the brains of the 24 nine- to 10 year-old participants. The analysis revealed significant fitness-related differences in the integrity of several white matter tracts in the brain: the corpus callosum, the superior longitudinal fasciculus, and the superior corona radiata.
“All of these tracts have been found to play a role in attention and memory,” Chaddock-Heyman said.
The team did not test for cognitive differences in the children in this study, but previous work has demonstrated a link between improved aerobic fitness and gains in cognitive function on specific tasks and in academic settings. “Previous studies in our lab have reported a relationship between fitness and white matter integrity in older adults,” said senior author Arthur Kramer. “Therefore, it appears that fitness may have beneficial effects on white matter throughout the lifespan.”

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