Summary: Walking can increase connectivity within and between three critical brain networks, one of which is linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Research involving older adults with normal cognitive function and those with mild cognitive impairment showed improvements in memory after 12 weeks of walking exercise. Brain activity is shown to be stronger and more synchronized after exercise, which holds promise for fighting cognitive decline and possibly delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia.

The study highlights the importance of physical activity in promoting brain health.

Key facts:

  1. Walking has been found to strengthen connections between three significant brain networks (default mode, frontoparietal, and salience networks), thereby improving brain health.
  2. Participants who walked for 12 weeks showed improved memory skills, indicating the effects of exercise on cognitive function.
  3. The study highlights exercise as a preventive measure or stabilizing agent for people with mild cognitive impairment and possibly delaying the progression to Alzheimer’s dementia.

Source: University of Maryland

A new University of Maryland School of Public Health study shows how walking strengthens connections within and between three brain networks, including one linked to Alzheimer’s disease, providing more evidence that exercise improves brain health.

Published this month by Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease ReportsThe study examined the brains and memory of older adults with normal brain function and mild cognitive impairment, such as a slight decline in memory, reasoning and reasoning skills and a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.

This shows two older women walking.
After 12 weeks of exercise, researchers repeated the tests and saw significant improvements in participants’ story memory. Credit: Neuroscience News

Professor of Kinesiology at the School of Public Health and principal investigator of the study

“They lose connection, and as a result people lose their ability to think clearly and remember things. We are showing that exercise training strengthens these relationships.

The study builds on Smith’s previous research, which showed how walking can reduce cerebral blood flow and improve brain function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.

Thirty-three participants, ages 71 to 85, walked for 12 weeks while following a treadmill four days per week. Before and after this exercise regimen, researchers asked participants to read a short story and repeat as many details out loud as possible.

Researchers underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of participants to measure changes in connectivity between the three brain networks that control cognitive function.

  • Default mode network – when a person is not performing a specific task (think daydreaming about a grocery list) and is connected to the hippocampus – one of the first regions of the brain to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease. It is also where Alzheimer’s and amyloid plaques, a prime suspect in Alzheimer’s disease, are diagnosed around nerve cells.
  • Frontoparietal network – Controls the decisions made when a person completes his work. It also includes memory.
  • Salinas network – Monitors the external world and stimuli and then decides what to focus on. It also facilitates switching between networks to optimize performance.

After 12 weeks of exercise, researchers repeated the tests and saw significant improvements in participants’ story memory.

“The brain’s activity was stronger and more coordinated, showing that physical activity stimulates the brain’s ability to change and adapt,” Smith said.

“These results offer hope that exercise may be useful in preventing or stabilizing people with mild cognitive impairment and possibly delaying the long-term progression to Alzheimer’s dementia.”

Researchers observed strong activity in the default mode network, in the salience network, and in connections between the three networks.

So Alzheimer’s disease and exercise research news

Author: Kelly Blake
Source: University of Maryland
Contact: Kelly Blake – University of Maryland
Image: Image credited to Neuroscience News.

Preliminary study: Open Access.
Large-scale network connectivity and cognitive function changes after exercise in right perception and mild cognitive impairment in older adults.” by J. Carson Smith et al Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports


Large-scale network connectivity and cognitive function changes after exercise in right perception and mild cognitive impairment in older adults.


Despite growing evidence regarding the relationship between exercise (ET) and functional brain network connectivity, little is known about the effects of ET on functional connectivity (FC) within and between core brain networks.


We investigated the functional connectivity between the default mode network (DMN), the frontoparietal network (FPN), and the salience network (SAL) in cognitively intact (CN) adults and ET within and among the networks in diagnosed older adults. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). ET-induced changes in the relationship between FC and cognitive performance were examined.


33 elderly subjects (78.0 ± 7.0 years, 16 MCI and 17 CN) participated in this study. Before and after the 12-week walking ET intervention, participants completed a graded exercise test, controlled verbal word association test (COWAT), Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), narrative memory test (logical memory, LM), and rest. They did. – State fMRI scan. We checked inside (W) and between (b) DMN, FPN and SAL network connection. We used linear regression to examine the relationship between ET-related network connectivity and cognitive function.


There were significant improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness, COWAT, RAVLT and LM after ET in participants. Significant increases in the DMNW and SALWand DMN-FPNbDMN-SALband FPN-SALb It was observed after ET. Advanced SALW and FPN-SALb In both groups, LM was associated with improved immediate memory after ET.


Increased connectivity within and between networks following ET may lead to improvements in memory performance in cognitively intact and older individuals with MCI due to Alzheimer’s disease.

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