September 19, 2019
2 min read

Exercise benefits neuropsychological function in individuals with MCI

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Participation in an aerobic exercise training or a stretching and toning program was linked to improved performance on memory and executive function tests in previously sedentary patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment, or aMCI, study findings showed.

Although previous findings suggest that physical exercise can improve neurocognitive function in elderly adults, there have been no randomized controlled trials on whether aerobic exercise training (AET) can improve cognitive performance and reduce Alzheimer’s disease pathologies in patients with aMCI, Takashi Tarumi, PhD, from the department of neurology and neurotherapeutics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and colleagues wrote in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

To address this gap, researchers reported whether a progressive, moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise training program affected the memory and executive function, brain volume and cortical amyloid-beta plaque deposition in patients with amnestic MCI in a proof-of-concept trial.

In total, 70 patients were randomized to receive one year of aerobic exercise training or stretching and toning (SAT; active control) interventions. The aerobic program began with three, 25- to 30-minute sessions per week, then participants alternated between three to four, 30- to 35-minute exercise sessions per week at week 11, then participants performed four to five, 30- to 40-minute sessions per week. The stretching and toning program, which focused on the upper and lower body, had the same frequency and duration as the aerobic program.

Exercising Adults 
Source: Adobe Stock

Tarumi and colleagued examined neuropsychological outcomes using the California Verbal Learning Test-second edition and the Delis–Kaplan Executive Function System, as well as the global and hippocampal brain volumes and the mean cortical and precuneus amyloid beta deposition at baseline, midpoint (6 months) and trial completion.

Baseline cognitive scores were similar between the groups and, over time, both patients receiving aerobic training and stretching/toning training experienced similar improvements in memory and executing function performance, according to the results. In addition, global brain and hippocampal volumes decreased and precuneus amyloid beta plaque deposition increased over time in both groups.

Tarumi and colleagues also reported that cardiorespiratory fitness improved significantly in the aerobic exercise group compared with stretching and toning group. Furthermore, aerobic exercise was associated with reduced hippocampal atrophy compared with the active control group in amyloid positive patients.

“Collectively, these findings suggest benefits of both AET and SAT exercise on neuropsychological function in aMCI patients,” the investigators wrote. “Further studies are needed to better understand the impact of exercise training on neuroimaging biomarkers of [Alzheimer’s disease] dementia in older adults.” – by Savannah Demko

Disclosure: Tarumi reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.