Masters athletes exhibit larger regional brain volume and better cognitive performance than sedentary older adults

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PurposeTo investigate differences in the age-related decline in brain tissue concentration between Masters athletes and sedentary older adults.Materials and MethodsTwelve Masters athletes (MA) (three females, age = 72.4 ± 5.6 years, endurance training >15 years), 12 sedentary elderly (SE) similar in age and educational level (four females, age = 74.6 ± 4.3 years), and nine young controls (YC) (four females, age = 27.2 ± 3.6 years) participated. T1-weighted high-resolution (1 × 1 × 1mm3) images were acquired. Voxel-based analysis was conducted to identify clusters showing tissue concentration differences with t-tests. Cognitive function was assessed using a standard clinical battery focused on executive function and memory.ResultsTwo MA and two SE were unable to complete the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study. Both SE and MA showed lower gray matter (GM) concentrations than YC in the superior, inferior and middle frontal gyrus, superior temporal gyrus, postcentral gyrus, and the cingulate gyrus (PFDR-corrected < 0.001) and lower white matter (WM) concentrations in the inferior frontal gyrus and precentral gyrus (PFDR-corrected < 0.005). Notably, MA showed higher GM and WM concentrations than SE in the subgyral, cuneus, and precuneus regions related to visuospatial function, motor control, and working memory (PFDR-corrected < 0.005). After controlling for estimated intelligence, MA outperformed SE on tasks of letter (P < 0.01) and category (P < 0.05) fluency.ConclusionLife-long exercise may confer benefits to some aspects of executive function and age-related brain tissue loss in the regions related to visuospatial function, motor control, and working memory in older adults. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2013;38:1169–1176. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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