Summary: A novel study finds a link between childhood physical fitness and cerebellar grey matter volume in adolescents.
The research, part of the FitBrain study, shows that adolescents with better neuromuscular fitness had larger Crus I grey matter volumes, important for cognition and learning. However, the study also found that better cardiorespiratory fitness was associated with smaller overall cerebellar volume, with gender-specific differences noted.
These findings underline the complex relationship between physical fitness and brain development, calling for more nuanced research in the field.
The study involved 40 participants, aged around 17.9 years, from the 8-year PANIC study follow-up.
Neuromuscular fitness in childhood was linked to larger cerebellar grey matter volume in adolescence, while better cardiorespiratory fitness correlated with smaller total cerebellar volume.
The research highlights the need for further, more detailed studies to understand the causality and specifics of these associations.
Source: University of Eastern Finland
Physical fitness since childhood is associated with cerebellar grey matter volume in adolescents.
According to a recent study conducted at the University of Jyväskylä and the University of Eastern Finland, those who were stronger, faster and more agile, in other words, had better neuromuscular fitness since childhood, had larger Crus I grey matter volume in adolescence.
Despite the importance of the developing cerebellum on cognition and learning, the associations between physical fitness and cerebellar volume in adolescents have remained unclear.
This study examined the associations of physical fitness with grey matter volume of cerebellar lobules related to cognition in adolescents, and whether these associations differed between females and males.
Those adolescents with better neuromuscular fitness since childhood had larger Crus I grey matter volume. However, adolescents with better cardiorespiratory fitness had smaller total cerebellar grey matter volume.
Moreover, males with better neuromuscular fitness since childhood had smaller Crus II grey matter volume.
“Our study highlights the importance of physical activity through childhood and adolescence, leading to better physical fitness, as it might be relevant to cerebellar volumes related to cognition and learning.
“However, the associations we observed are in part contradictory,” says Doctoral Researcher Petri Jalanko from the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä.
“The study sheds light on the associations between physical fitness and the cerebellum. Future randomised controlled trials utilising direct cardiorespiratory fitness measurements and novel brain imaging to assess a larger population and both sexes separately are needed to better understand the associations and causality between physical fitness and cerebellar volumes in adolescents,” Jalanko says.
The findings are from the FitBrain study, which included 40 participants from the 8-year follow-up examinations of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) study. Of the participants, 22 were female and 18 were male, and their mean age was 17.9 years.
Cardiorespiratory fitness was assessed by maximal ramp test on a cycle ergometer, muscular strength with standing long jump, speed-agility with the 10 x 5 m shuttle-run test, coordination with the Box and Block Test and neuromuscular fitness as the sum of standing long jump, Box and Block Test and shuttle-run test z-scores. Cerebellar volumes were assessed by magnetic resonance imaging.
About this fitness and neurodevelopment research news
Associations between physical fitness and cerebellar gray matter volume in adolescents
Despite the importance of the developing cerebellum on cognition, the associations between physical fitness and cerebellar volume in adolescents remain unclear.
We explored the associations of physical fitness with gray matter (GM) volume of VI, VIIb and Crus I & II, which are cerebellar lobules related to cognition, in 40 (22 females; 17.9 ± 0.8 year-old) adolescents, and whether the associations were sex-specific. P
eak oxygen uptake (V̇O2peak) and power were assessed by maximal ramp test on a cycle ergometer, muscular strength with standing long jump (SLJ), speed-agility with the shuttle-run test (SRT), coordination with the Box and Block Test (BBT) and neuromuscular performance index (NPI) as the sum of SLJ, BBT and SRT z-scores. Body composition was measured using a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry.
Cerebellar volumes were assessed by magnetic resonance imaging. V̇O2peak relative to lean mass was inversely associated with the GM volume of the cerebellum (standardized regression coefficient (β) = −0.038, 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.075 to 0.001, p = 0.044). Cumulative NPI was positively associated with the GM volume of Crus I (β = 0.362, 95% CI 0.045 to 0.679, p = 0.027).
In females, better performance in SRT was associated with a larger GM volume of Crus I (β = −0.373, 95% CI -0.760 to −0.028, p = 0.036). In males, cumulative NPI was inversely associated with the GM volume of Crus II (β = −0.793, 95% CI -1.579 to −0.008 p = 0.048).
Other associations were nonsignificant. In conclusion, cardiorespiratory fitness, neuromuscular performance and speed-agility were associated with cerebellar GM volume, and the strength and direction of associations were sex-specific.