The brain and cardiovascular system share common risk factors for age-related diseases such as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and genetics (e.g. APOE4). Because of this link, much work has focused on the role of cerebrovascular health in reducing dementia risk. Regular aerobic exercise has well-established benefits for cardiovascular health and has been repeatedly linked to better cognition, brain health, and lower risk of dementia. Despite strong evidence for sustained cognitive and brain outcomes, the mechanisms relating aerobic exercise with brain health and cognition remain imprecisely defined. Amongst many potential mechanisms, cerebral blood flow (CBF) and blood-based biomarkers, such as neurotrophins, are promising targets for their shared association to brain and cardiovascular health. Prior investigations have largely attempted to measure change in these mechanisms under resting conditions after an extended exercise intervention with mixed and conflicting results. Further, studies have often not accounted for genetic differences that may blunt the effect of exercise. Unlike prior work, our innovative approach is to begin by characterizing the dynamic changes that result from an acute exercise challenge. A single bout of aerobic exercise temporarily increases cerebral blood flow (CBF) and prompts neurotrophin release. These transient changes ultimately drive long-term physiologic adaptation to exercise. Therefore, we will characterize the dynamic response to an acute, standardized bout of aerobic exercise in a group of nondemented older adults, comparing those who do and do not carry the APOE4 allele.
The first aim will test if CBF response to an acute exercise challenge is blunted in APOE4 carriers.
The second aim will similarly test the acute exercise response of blood-based biomarkers such as brain derived neurotrophic factor, insulin-like growth factor, and vascular endothelial growth factor in APOE4 carriers versus non-carriers. Finally, we will explore the relationship of acute changes in CBF with our blood-based biomarkers and cognitive performance. We expect that more accurately understanding the acute effects will provide valuable insight into how aerobic exercise supports cognitive function and brain health. Armed with this knowledge we can optimize biomarker measurement for future exercise intervention randomized controlled trials, informing our long-term goal of identifying precision exercise prescription for AD prevention.

Public Health Relevance

Research suggests that physical exercise supports brain health and cognition as we age. The goal of this project is to examine the specific changes in brain blood flow and biological factors in the blood immediately after exercise in older adults who have the APOE4 gene, a genetic risk factor for developing Alzheimer's. Results from this study will help researchers and clinicians understand and measure changes in the body and brain as a function of exercise, and how those changes relate to Alzheimer's risk.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Clinical Neuroscience and Neurodegeneration Study Section (CNN)
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Wagster, Molly V
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University of Kansas
Schools of Medicine
Kansas City
United States
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