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Semantic memory functional MRI and cognitive function after exercise intervention in mild cognitive impairment

PainSci » bibliography » Smith et al 2013
Tags: exercise, anxiety, random, self-treatment, treatment, mind

One article on PainSci cites Smith 2013: Anxiety & Chronic Pain

PainSci summary of Smith 2013: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

This brain study showed lasting improvements in cognitive function in 17 subjects with mild cognitive impairment after three months of regular easy walking on a treadmill. Specifically, they detected signs presumed to indicate more efficient semantic memory. A follow-up study in 2019 showed the beginning of that process: a spike in relevant brain activity compared to controls. This a significant contribution to “growing evidence that exercise can have rapid effects on brain function and also that these effects could accumulate and lead to long-term improvements in how our brains operate and we remember” (NY times).

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is associated with early memory loss, Alzheimer's disease (AD) neuropathology, inefficient or ineffective neural processing, and increased risk for AD. Unfortunately, treatments aimed at improving clinical symptoms or markers of brain function generally have been of limited value. Physical exercise is often recommended for people diagnosed with MCI, primarily because of its widely reported cognitive benefits in healthy older adults. However, it is unknown if exercise actually benefits brain function during memory retrieval in MCI. Here, we examined the effects of exercise training on semantic memory activation during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Seventeen MCI participants and 18 cognitively intact controls, similar in sex, age, education, genetic risk, and medication use, volunteered for a 12-week exercise intervention consisting of supervised treadmill walking at a moderate intensity. Both MCI and control participants significantly increased their cardiorespiratory fitness by approximately 10% on a treadmill exercise test. Before and after the exercise intervention, participants completed an fMRI famous name discrimination task and a neuropsychological battery, Performance on Trial 1 of a list-learning task significantly improved in the MCI participants. Eleven brain regions activated during the semantic memory task showed a significant decrease in activation intensity following the intervention that was similar between groups (p-values ranged 0.048 to 0.0001). These findings suggest exercise may improve neural efficiency during semantic memory retrieval in MCI and cognitively intact older adults, and may lead to improvement in cognitive function. Clinical trials are needed to determine if exercise is effective to delay conversion to AD.

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