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Title: Widespread Positive Direct and Indirect Effects of Regular Physical Activity on the Developing Functional Connectome in Early Adolescence
Abstract Adolescence is a period of profound but incompletely understood changes in the brain’s neural circuitry (the connectome), which is vulnerable to risk factors such as unhealthy weight, but may be protected by positive factors such as regular physical activity. In 5955 children (median age = 120 months; 50.86% females) from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) cohort, we investigated direct and indirect (through impact on body mass index [BMI]) effects of physical activity on resting-state networks, the backbone of the functional connectome that ubiquitously affects cognitive function. We estimated significant positive effects of regular physical activity on network connectivity, efficiency, robustness and stability (P ≤ 0.01), and on local topologies of attention, somatomotor, frontoparietal, limbic, and default-mode networks (P < 0.05), which support extensive processes, from memory and executive control to emotional processing. In contrast, we estimated widespread negative BMI effects in the same network properties and brain regions (P < 0.05). Additional mediation analyses suggested that physical activity could also modulate network topologies leading to better control of food intake, appetite and satiety, and ultimately lower BMI. Thus, regular physical activity may have extensive positive effects on the development of the functional connectome, and may be critical for improving the detrimental effects of unhealthy weight on cognitive more » health. « less
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Award ID(s):
1940096 1649865 1451480 1658414
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Cerebral Cortex
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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    To test whether WMT affects PWH brain functional connectivity in resting‐state fMRI (rsfMRI).

    Study Type



    A total of 53 PWH (ages 50.7 ± 1.5 years, two women) and 53HIV‐seronegative controls (SN, ages 49.5 ± 1.6 years, six women).

    Field Strength/Sequence

    Axial single‐shot gradient‐echo echo‐planar imaging at 3.0 T was performed at baseline (TL1), at 1‐month (TL2), and at 6‐months (TL3), after WMT.


    All participants had rsfMRI and clinical assessments (including neuropsychological tests) at TL1 before randomization to Cogmed WMT (adaptive training,n = 58: 28 PWH, 30 SN; nonadaptive training,n = 48: 25 PWH, 23 SN), 25 sessions over 5–8 weeks. All assessments were repeated at TL2 and at TL3. The functional connectivity estimated by independent component analysis (ICA) or graph theory (GT) metrics (eigenvector centrality, etc.) for different link densities (LDs) were compared between PWH and SN groups at TL1 and TL2.

    Statistical Tests

    Two‐way analyses of variance (ANOVA) on GT metrics and two‐samplet‐tests on FC or GT metrics were performed. Cognitive (eg memory) measures were correlated with eigenvector centrality (eCent) usingmore »Pearson's correlations. The significance level was set atP < 0.05 after false discovery rate correction.


    The ventral default mode network (vDMN) eCent differed between PWH and SN groups at TL1 but not at TL2 (P = 0.28). In PWH, vDMN eCent changes significantly correlated with changes in the memory ability in PWH (r = −0.62 at LD = 50%) and vDMN eCent before training significantly correlated with memory performance changes (r = 0.53 at LD = 50%).

    Data Conclusion

    ICA and GT analyses showed that adaptive WMT normalized graph properties of the vDMN in PWH.

    Evidence Level


    Technical Efficacy


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