Myelin and Physical Activity in Older Adults With Cerebral Small Vessel Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment

Nárlon C. Boa Sorte Silva, Elizabeth Dao, Chun Liang Hsu, Roger C. Tam, Kevin Lam, Walid Alkeridy, Cornelia Laule, Irene M. Vavasour, Ryan G. Stein, Teresa Liu-Ambrose (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Myelin loss is a feature of cerebral small vessel disease (cSVD). Although physical activity levels may exert protective effects over cSVD pathology, its specific relationship with myelin content in people living with the cSVD is unknown. Thus, we investigated whether physical activity levels are associated with myelin in community-dwelling older adults with cSVD and mild cognitive impairment. METHODS: Cross-sectional data from 102 individuals with cSVD and mild cognitive impairment were analyzed (mean age [SD] = 74.7 years [5.5], 63.7% female). Myelin was measured using a magnetic resonance gradient and spin echo sequence. Physical activity was estimated using the Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly. Hierarchical regression models adjusting for total intracranial volume, age, sex, body mass index, and education were conducted to determine the associations between myelin content and physical activity. Significant models were further adjusted for white matter hyperintensity volume. RESULTS: In adjusted models, greater physical activity was linked to higher myelin content in the whole-brain white matter (R2change = .04, p = .048). Greater physical activity was also associated with myelin content in the sagittal stratum (R2change = .08, p = .004), anterior corona radiata (R2change = .04, p = .049), and genu of the corpus callosum (R2change = .05, p = .018). Adjusting for white matter hyperintensity volume did not change any of these associations. CONCLUSIONS: Physical activity may be a strategy to maintain myelin in older adults with cSVD and mild cognitive impairment. Future randomized controlled trials of exercise are needed to determine whether exercise increases myelin content.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)545-553
Number of pages9
JournalThe journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebral white matter
  • Cerebrovascular disease
  • Functional decline
  • Lifestyle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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