Brain glucose metabolism, cognition, and cardiorespiratory fitness following exercise training in adults at risk for Alzheimer’s disease


Gaitán JM, Boots EA, Dougherty RJ, Oh JM, Ma Y, Edwards DF, Christian BT, Cook DB, Okonkwo OC

Brain Plasticity. 2019 Dec 26. 5(1): 83-95. doi: 10.3233/BPL-190093

Abstract

Aerobic exercise has been associated with reduced burden of brain and cognitive changes related to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, it is unknown whether exercise training in asymptomatic individuals harboring risk for AD improves outcomes associated with AD. We investigated the effect of 26 weeks of supervised aerobic treadmill exercise training on brain glucose metabolism and cognition among 23 late-middle-aged adults from a cohort enriched with familial and genetic risk of AD. They were randomized to Usual Physical Activity (PA) or Enhanced PA conditions. Usual PA received instruction about maintaining an active lifestyle. Enhanced PA completed a progressive exercise training program consisting of 3 sessions of treadmill walking per week for 26 weeks. By week seven, participants exercised at 70– 80% heart rate reserve for 50 minutes per session to achieve 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week in accordance with public health guidelines. Before and after the intervention, participants completed a graded treadmill test to assess VO2peak as a measure of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), wore an accelerometer to measure free-living PA, underwent 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography imaging to assess brain glucose metabolism, and a neuropsychological battery to assess episodic memory and executive function. VO2peak increased, sedentary behavior decreased, and moderate-to-vigorous PA increased significantly in the Enhanced PA group as compared to Usual PA. Glucose metabolism in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) did not change significantly in Enhanced PA relative to Usual PA. However, change in PCC glucose metabolism correlated positively with change in VO2peak. Executive function, but not episodic memory, was significantly improved after Enhanced PA relative to Usual PA. Improvement in executive function correlated with increased VO2peak. Favorable CRF adaptation after 26 weeks of aerobic exercise training was associated with improvements in PCC glucose metabolism and executive function, important markers of AD.

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