MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Teresa Liu-Ambrose, PhD, PT
Associate Professor, Canada Research Chair
Department of Physical Therapy
Aging, Mobility, and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory
Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute & University of British Columbia Vancouver, BC
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Liu-Ambrose: With respect to dementia risk, the hippocampus is a brain structure of intense interest. We demonstrated that six months of 2x/week aerobic training significantly increased hippocampal volume in older women with probable mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Notably, we observed a 4 percent increase in the total hippocampal volume. This is equivalent to reversing age-related loss in hippocampal volume by more than two years.
MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Dr. Liu-Ambrose: While we previously reported that six months of 2x/week aerobic training significantly increased memory performance in the same sample of older women with MCI, in this analysis, we found that increased hippocampal volume was associated with reduced verbal learning and memory performance. This finding suggests that the relationship between change in brain structural volume and change in cognitive performance is complex, likely not at a 1:1 relationship, and required further research
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Liu-Ambrose: Our research suggests that twice-weekly aerobic exercise can positively impact hippocampal volume – a structure essential for memory and yet, sensitive to both aging and neurodegeneration – among older adults at risk for dementia . Therefore, we recommend that exercise should be included in the management plan of older adults at risk for cognitive decline.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Liu-Ambrose: Future research should focus on comparing the effects of different types of exercise training as well as combined training on both cognitive and brain health. More research is also needed to examine whether the benefit of exercise is evident among different neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease). Lastly, more research examining the underlying mechanisms by which different types of exercise benefits the brain is needed.
Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in older women with probable mild cognitive impairment: a 6-month randomised controlled trial