Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center

Cognitive Benefits of Aerobic Exercise Across the Age Span

Cognitive Benefits of Aerobic Exercise Across the Age Span

Overall Status: 
Active, not recruiting
Brief Description: 

This study will test the hypothesis that aerobic exercise leads to improved cognitive function as well as increases in gray-matter density and changes in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) patterns of task-related activation.

Patient Qualifications: 
Min AgeMax AgeGenderHealthy Volunteers
20 Years
65 Years
Inclusion Criteria: 
    • Age 20-45 years or 50-65 years
    • English-speaking
    • Strongly right-handed
    • Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 18.5 and less than 32
    • Premenopausal women: no oral contraceptive use; postmenopausal women: no estrogen replacement therapy
    • Sedentary, defined by VO2max of less than 43 and 36 ml/kg/min for men age 25-40 and 50-65, respectively; less than 36 and 29 ml/kg/min for women age 25-40 and 50-65, respectively
Exclusion Criteria: 
    • MRI contraindications such as metallic implants, pacemaker, weight greater than 350 pounds, waist greater than 55 inches
    • Hearing impaired or use hearing aids; unable to read newspaper at arm's length with corrective lenses
    • Objective cognitive impairment
    • Ischemic changes, abnormal blood pressure responses, or any significant ectopy (abnormal position of organ or body part) during aerobic capacity testing
    • Cardiovascular disease; uncontrolled high blood pressure (systolic blood pressure ≥ 180 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure ≥ 105 mmHg)
    • Current or recent nonskin neoplastic disease or melanoma
    • Active hepatic disease (not a history of hepatitis) or primary renal disease requiring dialysis; primary untreated endocrine diseases such as Cushing's disease, primary hypothalamic failure, or insulin-dependent diabetes
    • HIV infection
    • Pregnant or lactating (participation allowed 3 months after ceasing lactation)
    • Taking medications that target the central nervous system (for example, neuroleptics, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, benzodiazepines) within the last month
    • Women: any selective estrogen receptor modulator or aromatase inhibitor; men: androgen ablation/deprivation hormonal therapies
    • Any history of psychosis or electroconvulsive therapy, psychotic disorder; current or recent (within past 12 months) alcohol or substance abuse or dependence; use of recreational drugs within the past month
    • Brain disorder such as stroke, tumor, infection, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, degenerative diseases, head injury, mental retardation
    • Imaged cortical stroke or large subcortical lacunae, infarct, or space-occupying lesion; other findings, e.g., periventricular caps or small white-matter hyperintensities, do not result in exclusion
    • Diagnosed learning disability, dyslexia
Detailed Description: 

Previous research has shown that enhancing aerobic capacity has a beneficial effect on cognition. One study suggested that this benefit is seen particularly for executive control processes such as planning and organizing, which are affected by aging. These improvements have been accompanied by increases in gray-matter density and changes in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) patterns of task-related activation.

This study will extend the investigation of the beneficial effects of aerobic exercise to younger individuals and will compare these effects in younger (age 25-40) and older (age 50-65) participants. They will be randomized to two training conditions, aerobic exercise and stretching/toning. Participants will be assessed for aerobic capacity and cognitive task performance. fMRI will be used to measure cerebral blood flow and cognitive activation at study entry and after 6 months of training.

Researchers also propose two complementary approaches to investigating the neural correlates of the beneficial effects of aerobic exercise on cognition. First, they will use a combination of structural, metabolic, and cognitive activation fMRI studies to evaluate the neural substrates of the effect of aerobic exercise on cognition. Second, they will explore the effects of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype, inflammatory markers, and cognitive reserve on the cognitive effects of aerobic exercise.

Map Marker CityStateZip CodePrimary Contact

Geolocation is 40.8409822, -73.9447994

Columbia University Medical Center
New York
New York
Lead Sponsor: 
New York State Psychiatric Institute
Collaborator Sponsor: 
Facility Investigators: 
Richard P. Sloan, PhD
Principal Investigator
Columbia University
Yaakov Stern, PhD
Principal Investigator
Columbia University
Study Contact: 
Richard P. Sloan, PhD
Locations ID 
NCT01179958 (follow link to view full record on in new window)
Official Title: 
Cognitive Benefits of Aerobic Exercise Across the Age Span
Study Start Date: 
August 2010
Study End Date: 
August 2015