Changes in entorhinal cortical thickness and volume in young adults following an exercise intervention
Velez Lopez, Andres
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One of the few areas in the brain that still exhibits experience-dependent neuroplasticity in adulthood is found in the medial temporal lobe (MTL) system. Within the MTL, this plasticity has been observed in the hippocampus in both humans and animal models. Rodent model studies focusing on the effect of aerobic exercise have shown a positive increase of neuroplasticity in the dentate gyrus subregion of the hippocampus. Another area in the MTL, the entorhinal cortex (EC), serves as a primary input to the hippocampus, and studies on environmental enrichment have reported greater EC volume in rodents supplied with toys and running wheels. Previous work in our lab working with healthy young adults showed a positive correlation between right EC volume, and aerobic fitness (VO2 max). In this thesis, I examined two aims, first whether aerobic fitness predicts changes in thickness or volume of the MTL as well as performance in an MTL dependent task in healthy young adults. Additionally, whether the brain morphology measures of the MTL can predict performance on the memory task. The second aim looks at the longitudinal effect a 12-week exercise intervention has on thickness or volume in the MTL and performance on an MTL dependent task in the same population. Results indicate that there is a positive baseline correlation between aerobic fitness and thickness of the EC on the left hemisphere but there are no longitudinal changes in morphology after the exercise intervention. These data extend previous work on the effects aerobic exercise has on MTL structure and offer interesting venues to combat neurodegenerative diseases that affect the MTL memory system like Alzheimer’s disease.