Aerobic fitness explains individual differences in the functional brain connectome of healthy young adults

Tanveer Talukdar, Aki Nikolaidis, Chris E. Zwilling, Erick J. Paul, Charles H. Hillman, Neal J Cohen, Arthur F. Kramer, Aron Keith Barbey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A wealth of neuroscience evidence demonstrates that aerobic fitness enhances structural brain plasticity, promoting the development of gray matter volume and maintenance of white matter integrity within networks for executive function, attention, learning, and memory. However, the role of aerobic fitness in shaping the functional brain connectome remains to be established. The present work therefore investigated the effects of aerobic fitness (as measured by VO 2 max) on individual differences in whole-brain functional connectivity assessed from resting state fMRI data. Using a connectome-wide association study, we identified significant brain-fitness relationships within a large sample of healthy young adults (N = 242). The results revealed several regions within frontal, temporal, parietal, and cerebellar cortex, having significant association with aerobic fitness. We further characterized the influence of these regions on 7 intrinsic connectivity networks, demonstrating the greatest association with networks that are known to mediate the beneficial effects of aerobic fitness on executive function (frontoparietal network), attention and learning (dorsal and ventral attention network), and memory (default mode network). In addition, we provide evidence that connectivity strength between these regions and the frontoparietal network is predictive of individuals' fluid intelligence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3600-3609
Number of pages10
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • aerobic fitness
  • brain plasticity
  • connectome-wide association
  • functional connectivity
  • individual difference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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