Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Hum. Neurosci., 19 August 2014 | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00584

Aerobic fitness is associated with greater white matter integrity in children

  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA
  • 2Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA
  • 3Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  • 4Department of Bioengineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA
  • 5Department of Psychology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA
  • 6Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
  • 7Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA

Aerobic fitness has been found to play a positive role in brain and cognitive health of children. Yet, many of the neural biomarkers related to aerobic fitness remain unknown. Here, using diffusion tensor imaging, we demonstrated that higher aerobic fitness was related to greater estimates of white matter microstructure in children. Higher fit 9- and 10-year-old children showed greater fractional anisotropy (FA) in sections of the corpus callosum, corona radiata, and superior longitudinal fasciculus, compared to lower fit children. The FA effects were primarily characterized by aerobic fitness differences in radial diffusivity, thereby raising the possibility that estimates of myelination may vary as a function of individual differences in fitness during childhood. White matter structure may be another potential neural mechanism of aerobic fitness that assists in efficient communication between gray matter regions as well as the integration of regions into networks.

Keywords: cardiorespiratory fitness, development, diffusion tensor imaging, fiber tracts, microstructure

Citation: Chaddock-Heyman L, Erickson KI, Holtrop JL, Voss MW, Pontifex MB, Raine LB, Hillman CH and Kramer AF (2014) Aerobic fitness is associated with greater white matter integrity in children. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 8:584. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00584

Received: 02 April 2014; Accepted: 14 July 2014;
Published online: 19 August 2014.

Edited by:

Francesco Di Russo, University of Rome “Foro Italico”, Italy

Reviewed by:

Giancarlo Zito, San Giovanni Calibita Fatebenefratelli Hospital, Italy
Tomas Paus, University of Toronto, Canada

Copyright © 2014 Chaddock-Heyman, Erickson, Holtrop, Voss, Pontifex, Raine, Hillman and Kramer. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Laura Chaddock-Heyman, Department of Psychology and Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 405 North Mathews Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801, USA e-mail: lchaddo2@illinois.edu

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