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Exercise Effects on Brain Health and Learning


Researchers seek to understand and enhance the detection of the effects of exercise on hippocampal network function, learning and memory in older adults. Success would lead to new ways to detect the benefits of exercise on cognitive aging, better understand brain plasticity and inform strategies to prevent cognitive decline.

Minimum Age Maximum Age Gender Healthy Volunteers
55 Years 80 Years All Yes
May 1, 2018
December 2021

  • Eligible to participate in an aerobic exercise intervention based on the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire
  • Corrected vision of 20/40
  • Approval from a physician who monitored electrocardiography response during a maximal aerobic fitness test
  • Exercised less than 60 minutes a week for the past calendar year
  • Fluent in English

  • Score of less than 20 (out of 30) on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment
  • Inability to comply with experimental instructions
  • Qualify as "high risk" for acute cardiovascular event
  • Previous diagnosis of neurological, metabolic or psychiatric condition
  • Previous brain injury associated with loss of consciousness
  • Inability to complete a MRI scan

The proposed research will determine if different types of exercise improve the same kinds of learning in older adults that have been shown to improve in animal models by improving hippocampal function. The overall hypothesis is that exercise improves learning when it increases functional hippocampal-cortical communication that otherwise declines with aging.

Participants will be randomly assigned to participate in either training (cycling) designed to improve cardiorespiratory fitness or in light to moderate exercise. After an orientation, the training being tested will involve a five-minute warm-up, 20 minutes of moderate intensity cycling, 30 minutes of light intensity cycling, and a five-minute cool-down per session. Training will occur three times per week for 24 weeks.

Name City State Zip Status Primary Contact
University of Iowa
Iowa City Iowa 52242-1401 Recruiting Michelle Voss

Michelle W. Voss

Name Role Affiliation
Michelle W Voss, PhD Principal Investigator University of Iowa

Name Phone Email
Michelle W Voss, PhD 319-335-2057


Exercise to Improve Hippocampal Connectivity and Learning in Older Adults