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The relationships between cardiorespiratory fitness, white matter integrity, and cognitive function in older adulthood

Oberlin, Lauren (2015) The relationships between cardiorespiratory fitness, white matter integrity, and cognitive function in older adulthood. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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White matter in the brain supports higher-order cognitive processes by facilitating signal transmission between diverse cortical regions. White matter integrity declines with advancing age, leading to impairments in memory and executive processes in older adulthood. Recent research suggests that higher-fit older adults may be less susceptible to white matter degeneration, although evidence for this relationship is limited. Here we examine whether cardiorespiratory fitness correlates with white matter integrity and whether this relationship further predicts cognitive performance in a large, older adult sample. Diffusion tensor imaging was used to determine microstructural white matter integrity in a group of 113 (mean age = 66.61) neurologically healthy adults. Measures of cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2), working memory, and executive function were also collected. Using a whole-brain voxelwise analysis, we found that higher fitness levels predicted greater white matter integrity in multiple fiber pathways. We explored this relationship further using a region of interest approach, and found that higher fitness was associated with greater microstructural integrity in the anterior internal capsule and corona radiata, which contain fibers that project from subcortical to prefrontal structures. Further, statistical mediation analysis revealed that white matter integrity within the anterior internal capsule and corona radiata mediated the relationship between fitness and spatial working memory performance. Results suggest that higher levels of aerobic fitness may protect against age-related declines in white matter integrity, which may, in turn, preserve memory performance in older adulthood.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Oberlin, Laurenleo11@pitt.eduLEO11
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairErickson, Kirk Ikiericks@pitt.eduKIERICKS
Committee MemberMarsland, Anna Lmarsland@pitt.eduMARSLAND
Committee MemberGianaros, Peter JGianaros@pitt.eduGIANAROS
Date: 8 June 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 11 December 2014
Approval Date: 8 June 2015
Submission Date: 13 April 2015
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 64
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: White matter; neuroimaging; cognition; aging; fitness
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2015 23:16
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:27


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