Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Brain plasticity and aerobic fitness
Author: Thomas, Adam G.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5366 7394
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Restricted access.
Access from Institution:
Regular aerobic exercise has a wide range of positive effects on health and cognition. Exercise has been demonstrated to provide a particularly powerful and replicable method of triggering a wide range of structural changes within both human and animal brains. However, the details and mechanisms of these changes remain poorly understood. This thesis undertakes a comprehensive examination of the relationship between brain plasticity and aerobic exercise. A large, longitudinal experiment was conducted in which healthy but sedentary participants were scanned before and after six-weeks of monitored aerobic exercise. Increases in the volume of the anterior hippocampus were observed, as previously reported in an older cohort after a longer exercise intervention. Multimodal imaging methods allowed an in-depth exploration of the mechanisms underlying this volume change, which proved to be dominated by white matter changes rather than the vascular changes that have been previously reported. A surprising global change in the balance of CSF, blood, and brain tissue within the cranial cavity was also observed. Cross-sectional differences in memory and brain structure associated with fitness were also observed. The volume of the anterior hippocampus was shown to correlate with a measure of working memory. Higher cerebral blood volume throughout the brain was found to correlate with greater fitness and better working memory. Focal associations between fitness and magnetic susceptibility, a measure of iron content, were also observed in the basal ganglia. These findings demonstrate that aerobic fitness is associated with improved cognition and brain structure throughout the lifespan rather than simply acting to mitigate age related brain atrophy or accelerate brain development. Finally, a new pipeline was developed for analysing hippocampal morphometry using high-resolution, 7 Tesla scans. Striking variability in the convolution of the hippocampal surface is reported. This technique shows promise for imaging the precise nature of the change in hippocampal volume associated with aerobic exercise. This thesis adds to the evidence that aerobic exercise is a potent catalyst for behavioural and brain plasticity while also demonstrating that the mechanisms for those plastic changes are likely different than previously supposed. Future work will refine these measurement techniques, perhaps to a point where brain changes can be monitored on a single subject level. This work will provide an important tool to understand how best to utilize aerobic exercise to facilitate adaptive behavioural changes, mitigate the negative effects of ageing and disease on the brain, and maximize the benefits of active lifestyles.
Supervisor: Johansen-Berg, Heidi; Bandettini, Peter Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Neuroscience ; Learning ; Physiology and anatomy ; Metabolism ; Physiology ; Cognitive Neuroscience ; Language and cognitive development ; Brain ; Exercise ; Fitness ; Plasticity ; Hippocampus ; Neurogenesis ; Neuroimaging