The purpose of this study was to investigate whether physical activity (PA) habits may positively impact performance of the orienting and executive control networks in community-dwelling aging individuals and diabetics, who are at risk of cognitive dysfunction. To this aim, we tested cross-sectionally whether age, ranging from late middle-age to old adulthood, and PA level independently or interactively predict different facets of the attentional performance. Hundred and thirty female and male individuals and 22 adults with type 2 diabetes aged 55-84 years were recruited and their daily PA (steps) was objectively measured by means of armband monitors. Participants performed a multifunctional attentional go/no-go reaction time (RT) task in which spatial attention was cued by means of informative direct cues of different sizes followed by compound stimuli with local and global target features. The performance efficiency of the orienting networks was estimated by computing RT differences between validly and invalidly cued trials, that of the executive control networks by computing local switch costs that are RT differences between switch and non-switch trials in mixed blocks of global and local target trials. In regression analyses performed on the data of non-diabetic elderlies, overall RTs and orienting effects resulted jointly predicted by age and steps. Age predicted overall RTs in low-active individuals, but orienting effects and response errors in high-active individuals. Switch costs were predicted by age only, with larger costs at older age. In the analysis conducted with the 22 diabetics and 22 matched non-diabetic elderlies, diabetic status and daily steps predicted longer and shorter RTs, respectively. Results suggest that high PA levels exert beneficial, but differentiated effects on processing speed and attentional networks performance in aging individuals that partially counteract the detrimental effects of advancing age and diabetic status. In conclusion, adequate levels of overall PA may positively impinge on brain efficiency and attentional control and should be therefore promoted by actions that support lifelong PA participation and impact the built environment to render it more conducive to PA.
Steps to health in cognitive aging: effects of physical activity on spatial attention and executive control in the elderly / Condello, G; Forte, R; Falbo, S; Shea, Jb; Di Baldassarre, A; Capranica, L; and Pesce, C.. - In: FRONTIERS IN HUMAN NEUROSCIENCE. - ISSN 1662-5161. - 11(2017). [10.3389/fnhum.2017.00107]
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