2010 - Research

Basal Ganglia Volume is Associated With Aerobic Fitness in Preadolescent Children

This study is the first to explore the association between childhood aerobic fitness and basal ganglia structure and function.

  • In children, higher aerobic fitness levels are associated with greater hippocampal volumes, superior performance on tasks of attentional and interference control, and elevated event-related brain potential indices of executive function.
  • The present study used magnetic resonance imaging to investigate if higher-fit and lower-fit 9- and 10-year-old children exhibited differential volumes of other subcortical brain regions, specifically the basal ganglia involved in attentional control.
  • The results indicated that higher-fit children showed superior flanker task performance compared to lower-fit children. Higher-fit children also showed greater volumes of the dorsal striatum, and dorsal striatum volume was negatively associated with behavioral interference.
  • The results support the claim that the dorsal striatum is involved in cognitive control and response resolution and that these cognitive processes vary as a function of aerobic fitness.
  • The findings suggest that increased childhood aerobic fitness is associated with greater dorsal striatal volumes and that this is related to enhanced cognitive control.
  • Because children are becoming increasingly overweight, unhealthy and unfit, understanding the neurocognitive benefits of an active lifestyle during childhood has important public health and educational implications.

Chaddock L, Erickson KI, Prakash RS, VanPatter M, Voss MW, Pontifex MB, Raine LB, Hillman CH, and Kramer AF. “Basal Ganglia Volume is Associated with Aerobic Fitness in Preadolescent Children.” Developmental Neuroscience. 32.3 (2010): 249-256.