White matter connectivity and aerobic fitness in male adolescents

Megan M. Herting, John B. Colby, Elizabeth R. Sowell, Bonnie J. Nagel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Exercise has been shown to have positive effects on the brain and behavior throughout various stages of the lifespan. However, little is known about the impact of exercise on neurodevelopment during the adolescent years, particularly with regard to white matter microstructure, as assessed by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Both tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) and tractography-based along-tract statistics were utilized to examine the relationship between white matter microstructure and aerobic exercise in adolescent males, ages 15-18. Furthermore, we examined the data by both (1) grouping individuals based on aerobic fitness self-reports (high fit (HF) vs. low fit (LF)), and (2) using VO2 peak as a continuous variable across the entire sample. Results showed that HF youth had an overall higher number of streamline counts compared to LF peers, which was driven by group differences in corticospinal tract (CST) and anterior corpus callosum (Fminor). In addition, VO2 peak was negatively related to FA in the left CST. Together, these results suggest that aerobic fitness relates to white matter connectivity and microstructure in tracts carrying frontal and motor fibers during adolescence. Furthermore, the current study highlights the importance of considering the environmental factor of aerobic exercise when examining adolescent brain development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-75
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Adolescence
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Tractography
  • White matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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