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An 8-month exercise intervention alters frontotemporal white matter integrity in overweight children


  • DJS, CEK, CLD, and JEM conceived and carried out experiments and analyzed data. JDA, NEY, and TL conceived and carried out experiments. NFS, LC, JEP, and ALR carried out experiments. This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant number R01 HL87923) and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.


In childhood, excess adiposity and low fitness are linked to poor academic performance, lower cognitive function, and differences in brain structure. Identifying ways to mitigate obesity-related alterations is of current clinical importance. This study examined the effects of an 8-month exercise intervention on the uncinate fasciculus, a white matter fiber tract connecting frontal and temporal lobes. Participants consisted of 18 unfit, overweight 8- to 11-year-old children (94% Black) who were randomly assigned to either an aerobic exercise (n = 10) or a sedentary control group (n = 8). Before and after the intervention, all subjects participated in a diffusion tensor MRI scan. Tractography was conducted to isolate the uncinate fasciculus. The exercise group showed improved white matter integrity as compared to the control group. These findings are consistent with an emerging literature suggesting beneficial effects of exercise on white matter integrity.