Childhood fitness is associated with cerebellar gray matter volume in adolescents. According to a recent study conducted at the University of Jyväskylä and the University of Eastern Finland, those who were stronger, faster and more agile, in other words, had better neuromuscular ability from childhood, had a larger volume of Crus I gray matter in the puberty.
Despite the importance of the developing cerebellum for cognition and learning, associations between fitness and cerebellar volume in adolescents have remained unclear. This study examined associations of physical fitness with cerebellar gray matter volume related to cognition in adolescents and whether these associations differed between females and males.
Adolescents with better neuromuscular fitness since childhood had greater Crus I gray matter volume. However, adolescents with better cardiorespiratory fitness had smaller total cerebellar gray matter volume. Additionally, males with better childhood neuromuscular ability had smaller Crus II gray matter volume.
“Our study highlights the importance of physical activity during childhood and adolescence, leading to better physical condition, as it may be related to cerebellar volume related to cognition and learning. However, the associations we observed are partly contradictory,” says PhD researcher Petri Jalanko from the Faculty of Sports and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä.
“The study sheds light on the associations between physical fitness and the cerebellum. “Future randomized controlled trials using direct measures of cardiorespiratory fitness and new brain imaging to evaluate a larger population and both sexes separately are needed to better understand the associations and causality between physical fitness and cerebellar tumors in adolescents,” says Jalanko.
The findings come from the FitBrain study, which included 40 participants from the 8-year follow-up examinations of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) study. Of the participants, 22 were female and 18 were male, and their mean age was 17.9 years.
Cardiorespiratory fitness was assessed by maximum ramp test on a cycle ergometer, muscle strength by long jump, speed-agility by the 10 x 5 m shuttle-run test, coordination by the Box and Block Test, and neuromuscular fitness as the sum of the standing long jump , Box and Block Test and shuttle-run test z-scores. Cerebellar tumors were assessed by MRI. The study was published in Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.