Samantha Rubinstein, Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab, will lecture on her First Year Project, "Association Between Somatomotor Control and Structural Brain Measures in Aging."
It is widely known that aging influences numerous bodily systems, but this effect can be partially prevented by physical activity and fitness. Here we investigated the relationships between the structural integrity of various brain regions involved in somatomotor control, fitness, and cognition across the lifespan (age 25-75). We hypothesized that fitness levels would be correlated with brain volumes in regions related to somatomotor control as well as with cognition. Participants’ abilities were assessed through a variety of tasks using the NIH Toolbox and measures of cardiorespiratory fitness. Global and regional volumetric measures were derived from T1 MRI images with Freesurfer 6.0. As expected, age was negatively correlated with cognition, motor abilities, and intracranial volume. Results revealed two independent aspects of somatomotor control that were associated with aging and fitness. Both balance and dexterity were correlated with a variety of cortical and subcortical volumes, including the thalamus and motor areas. Interestingly, balance and dexterity were not correlated with each other. However, both are known to affect processing speed, which can subsequently influence other cognitive outcomes. Our results demonstrate the complexity of the relationships between aging, fitness, somatomotor control, and brain structures.