Facebook pixel
Go to home page

Distinct Brain and Behavioral Benefits From Cognitive vs. Physical Training: A Randomized Trial in Aging Adults

A happy senior couple with elastic bands indoors at home, doing exercise on the floor.

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

Sandra B. Chapman, Sina Aslan, Jeffrey S. Spence, Molly W. Keebler, Laura F. DeFina, Nyaz Didehbani, Alison M. Perez, Hanzhang Lu and Mark D'Esposito

Read full research article


This randomized trial compared the results of two training protocols, cognitive training (CT) and physical training (PT), to examine their effects on cognition and brain function for adults aged 56-75 years. Participants were randomly assigned to either the PT or CT protocol, and both training regiments were conducted three hours per week over the span of 12 weeks. Data was gathered before, during (halfway), and after training. Cognitive performance was measured by a range of standardized intelligence tests, and brain changes were measured through fMRI. Evidence indicates that both training methods improved brain function and cognition for participants, but in distinct ways. Cognitive training seemed to improve participants' executive functioning (reasoning, decision making, etc.), whereas physical training enhanced memory.

Share this article

Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD

Chief Director Dee Wyly Distinguished Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences Co-Leader, The BrainHealth Project

Jeffrey S. Spence, PhD

Director of Biostatistics

Mark D’Esposito, MD

Carol Heller BrainHealth Project Co-Leader

Related Information

Aging and Brain Health and How to Preserve It: What Experts Know So Far

Preserving brain health is integral to longevity, especially in an ever-growing aging population.

BOLD Hemodynamic Response Function Changes Significantly with Healthy Aging

Healthy older and younger individuals demonstrate significant differences in the brain’s blood-oxygen response, as shown with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Sammons BrainHealth Imaging Center

Located at Center for BrainHealth, the Sammons BrainHealth Imaging Center is a one-of-a-kind facility completely focused on human brain imaging to measure changes in brain health and function. The design and field strength are optimized for functional MRI (fMRI), providing crisp anatomical detail and a signal-to-noise ratio that reduces distortion to facilitate the acquisition and interpretation of data.