Effects of aerobic exercise training on cognitive function and cortical vascularity in monkeys

I. J. Rhyu, J. A. Bytheway, S. J. Kohler, H. Lange, K. J. Lee, J. Boklewski, K. McCormick, N. I. Williams, G. B. Stanton, W. T. Greenough, J. L. Cameron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined whether regular exercise training, at a level that would be recommended for middle-aged people interested in improving fitness could lead to improved cognitive performance and increased blood flow to the brain in another primate species. Adult female cynomolgus monkeys were trained to run on treadmills for 1 h a day, 5 days a week, for a 5 month period (n=16; 1.9±0.4 miles/day). A sedentary control group sat daily on immobile treadmills (n=8). Half of the runners had an additional sedentary period for 3 months at the end of the exercise period (n=8). In all groups, half of the monkeys were middle-aged (10-12 years old) and half were more mature (15-17 years old). Starting the fifth week of exercise training, monkeys underwent cognitive testing using the Wisconsin General Testing Apparatus (WGTA). Regardless of age, the exercising group learned to use the WGTA significantly faster (4.6±3.4 days) compared to controls (8.3±4.8 days; P=0.05). At the end of 5 months of running monkeys showed increased fitness, and the vascular volume fraction in the motor cortex in mature adult running monkeys was increased significantly compared to controls (P=0.029). However, increased vascular volume did not remain apparent after a 3-month sedentary period. These findings indicate that the level of exercise associated with improved fitness in middle-aged humans is sufficient to increase both the rate of learning and blood flow to the cerebral cortex, at least during the period of regular exercise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1239-1248
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Jun

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Dr. Jocelyne Bachevalier and the members of her laboratory who provided very helpful guidance in setting up WGTA testing in our laboratory for these studies. The animal care services provided by the University of Pittsburgh Division of Animal Resources, were also appreciated. The statistical assistance of Dr. Lee Jy of Korea University is gratefully acknowledged. The assistance of Georgina Aldridge and Julie Markham is also acknowledged. This work was supported by a grant from the Retirement Research Foundation , and by grants from the National Institute of Aging ( AG10154 ) and National Institute on Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disorders ( DK55819 ).


  • Blood flow
  • Discrimination
  • Learning
  • Motor cortex
  • Primate
  • Spatial cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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