Aging is associated with deterioration in a number of cognitive functions. Previous reports have demonstrated the beneficial effect of physical fitness on cognitive function, especially executive function (EF). The graph theoretical approach models the brain as a complex network represented graphically as nodes and edges. We analyzed several measures of EF, an index of physical fitness, and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging data from healthy older volunteers to elucidate the associations among EF, cardiorespiratory fitness, and brain network properties. The topological neural properties were significantly related to the level of EF and/or physical fitness. Global efficiency, which represents how well the whole brain is integrated, was positively related, whereas local efficiency, which represents how well the brain is functionally segregated, was negatively related, to the level of EF and fitness. The associations among EF, physical fitness and topological restingstate functional network property appear related to compensation and dedifferentiation in older age. A mediation analysis showed that high-fit older adults gain higher global efficiency of the brain at the expense of lower local efficiency. The results suggest that physical fitness may be beneficial in maintaining EF in healthy aging by enhancing the efficiency of the global brain network.
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