Investigating links between habitual physical activity, cerebrovascular function, and cognitive control in healthy older adults

Hayley Guiney, Samuel Lucas, J. D. Cotter, Liana Machado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
276 Downloads (Pure)


A growing body of evidence indicates regular physical activity benefits older adults’ cognitive functioning, particularly when a high level of cognitive control is required. Recent research has pointed to improved cerebrovascular function as one mechanism through which such benefits might arise. This study built on previous research by investigating in 51 healthy older adults aged 60–72 years relationships between habitual physical activity, cerebrovascular function (indicated by resting cerebral blood flow velocity in the middle cerebral artery [n = 42], and its responsiveness to hypercapnia [n = 26] and hypocapnia [n = 25]), and cognitive control (inhibition and switching). Linear regression analyses showed moderate positive associations between physical activity and inhibitory control, but not cerebrovascular function. There were also no significant relationships between the cerebrovascular measures and cognitive control. These results indicate that regular engagement in physical activity is associated with superior inhibitory control in older adulthood, but cerebrovascular function was not found to explain those relationships. Taken together, the current findings reinforce reports of positive links between habitual physical activity and cognition in healthy older adults, but also signal that interrelationships with cerebrovascular function may be more complex than currently indicated by the literature, necessitating further research to elucidate the role cerebrovascular function might play in accounting for physical activity-cognition links in healthy older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-69
Number of pages8
Early online date23 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2019


  • Ageing
  • Blood flow
  • Cognition
  • Exercise
  • Transcranial Doppler

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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