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Changes in white matter microstructure and MRI-derived cerebral blood flow after one-week of exercise training

Steventon, J.J., Chandler, H.L., Foster, C. ORCID:, Dingsdale, H. ORCID:, Germuska, M. ORCID:, Massey, T. ORCID:, Parker, G., Wise, R.G. ORCID: and Murphy, K. 2021. Changes in white matter microstructure and MRI-derived cerebral blood flow after one-week of exercise training. Scientific Reports 11 , 22061. 10.1038/s41598-021-01630-7

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Exercise is beneficial for brain health, inducing neuroplasticity and vascular plasticity in the hippocampus, which is possibly mediated by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels. Here we investigated the short-term effects of exercise, to determine if a 1-week intervention is sufficient to induce brain changes. Fifteen healthy young males completed five supervised exercise training sessions over seven days. This was preceded and followed by a multi-modal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan (diffusion-weighted MRI, perfusion-weighted MRI, dual-calibrated functional MRI) acquired 1 week apart, and blood sampling for BDNF. A diffusion tractography analysis showed, after exercise, a significant reduction relative to baseline in restricted fraction—an axon-specific metric—in the corpus callosum, uncinate fasciculus, and parahippocampal cingulum. A voxel-based approach found an increase in fractional anisotropy and reduction in radial diffusivity symmetrically, in voxels predominantly localised in the corpus callosum. A selective increase in hippocampal blood flow was found following exercise, with no change in vascular reactivity. BDNF levels were not altered. Thus, we demonstrate that 1 week of exercise is sufficient to induce microstructural and vascular brain changes on a group level, independent of BDNF, providing new insight into the temporal dynamics of plasticity, necessary to exploit the therapeutic potential of exercise.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Physics and Astronomy
Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)
Publisher: Nature Research
ISSN: 2045-2322
Funders: Wellcome Trust
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 26 July 2021
Date of Acceptance: 31 May 2021
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2024 04:32

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