Resisting Vascular Cognitive Impairment: The Effects of Resistance Training on Myelin, Cortical Volume, and Mobility in Older Individuals

Combating dementia is a public health priority. Worldwide, vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) is a leading cause of dementia. Many brain changes occur in people with VCI, including myelin loss. Myelin is an understudied part of the brain white matter that is critical for transmission of signals between brain regions. People with VCI have considerable myelin loss, which could impact grey matter in cortical regions that are responsible for cognitive abilities (i.e., thinking) and physical functioning (e.g., walking). Therefore, it is important to find ways to prevent myelin loss people with VCI. Animal studies suggest that physical exercise could minimize myelin loss. We are interested in finding out if exercise in the form of strength training (e.g., lifting weights) is an effective strategy for slowing down myelin loss. In this project, we will analyze data from a 12-month study in persons with VCI who received either strength training or a control intervention. We will compare the two groups on myelin content, cortical volume, cognitive abilities and physical functioning. We will look closely at changes in brain regions located in the frontal lobe. These regions are responsible for key cognitive abilities and physical functioning. Counteracting myelin loss with exercise could preserve cognitive abilities and reduce risk of dementia and loss of function. Our proposal is also timely as the number of persons with VCI will only increase with the world’s aging population. This investigation takes place in BC and is conducted by Dr. Nárlon Boa Sorte Silva. He is a postdoctoral research fellow at UBC’s Department of Physical Therapy and School of Biomedical Engineering supervised by Dr. Roger Tam (UBC’s School of Biomedical Engineering) and co-supervised by Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose (UBC’s Department of Physical Therapy). Dr. Boa Sorte Silva is funded by StrokeCog-Canadian Clinical Trials Platform and by MSHR BC.   


Keywords: randomized controlled trial; exercise; cerebral small vessel disease; brain health; cognition; mobility.