Data-driven MRI analysis reveals fitness-related functional change in default mode network and cognition following an exercise intervention

Katherine M. Lloyd, Timothy P. Morris, Sheeba Anteraper, Michelle Voss, Alfonso Nieto-Castanon, Susan Whitfield-Gabrieli, Jason Fanning, Neha Gothe, Elizabeth A. Salerno, Kirk I. Erickson, Charles H. Hillman, Edward McAuley, Arthur F. Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research has indicated that cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) is structurally and functionally neuroprotective in older adults. However, questions remain regarding the mechanistic role of CRF on cognitive and brain health. The purposes of this study were to investigate if higher pre-intervention CRF was associated with greater change in functional brain connectivity during an exercise intervention and to determine if the magnitude of change in connectivity was related to better post-intervention cognitive performance. The sample included low-active older adults (n = 139) who completed a 6-month exercise intervention and underwent neuropsychological testing, functional neuroimaging, and CRF testing before and after the intervention. A data-driven multi-voxel pattern analysis was performed on resting-state MRI scans to determine changes in whole-brain patterns of connectivity from pre- to post-intervention as a function of pre-intervention CRF. Results revealed a positive correlation between pre-intervention CRF and changes in functional connectivity in the precentral gyrus. Using the precentral gyrus as a seed, analyses indicated that CRF-related connectivity changes within the precentral gyrus were derived from increased correlation strength within clusters located in the Dorsal Attention Network (DAN) and increased anti-correlation strength within clusters located in the Default Mode Network (DMN). Exploratory analysis demonstrated that connectivity change between the precentral gyrus seed and DMN clusters were associated with improved post-intervention performance on perceptual speed tasks. These findings suggest that in a sample of low-active and mostly lower-fit older adults, even subtle individual differences in CRF may influence the relationship between functional connectivity and aspects of cognition following a 6-month exercise intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere14469
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • cardiorespiratory fitness
  • cognition
  • default mode network
  • individual differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Physiology


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