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posted on 20.04.2022, 15:00 by Charleen J. Gust, Erin N. Moe, Douglas R. Seals, Marie T. Banich, Jessica R. Andrews-Hanna, Kent E. Hutchison, Angela D. Bryan

Previous research suggests a marked impact of aging on structural and functional connectivity within the frontoparietal control network (FPCN) and default mode network (DMN). As aging is also associated with reductions in cardiovascular fitness, age-related network connectivity differences reported by past studies could be partially due to age-related declines in fitness. Here, we use data collected as part of a 16-week exercise intervention to explore relationships between fitness and functional connectivity. Young and older adults completed baseline assessments including cardiovascular fitness, health and functioning measures, and an fMRI session. Scan data were acquired on a Siemens 3T MRI scanner with a 32-channel head coil. Results from regression analyses indicated that average connectivity did not differ between young and older adults. However, individual ROI-to-ROI connectivity analyses indicated weaker functional correlations for older adults between specific regions in the FPCN and DMN and, critically, many of these differences were attenuated when fitness was accounted for. Taken together, findings suggest that fitness exerts regional rather than global effects on network connectivity.

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