Higher cardiorespiratory fitness has been associated with better cognitive function in older adults; yet, this relationship demonstrates a degree of variability across the older adult population. Thus, it is hypothesised that variation in genetic factors may influence the relationship between fitness and cognitive health. One such genetic factor is the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) Val66Met polymorphism, which has previously been shown to moderate the relationship between self-reported physical activity and memory performance. In this study we aim to investigate the interaction between BDNF Val66Met polymorphism and objectively-measured cardiorespiratory fitness on performance on tasks assessing verbal and visuospatial memory. Data from ninety-nine cognitively normal men and women aged 60–80 years were used. Fitness was assessed by peak oxygen consumption, and verbal and visuospatial memory were evaluated using well-validated measures. Participants were categorised into: lower-fit Met carriers, higher-fit Met carriers, lower-fit Val/Val, or higher-fit Val/Val. Higher-fit individuals performed better on a task assessing visuospatial memory, compared with lower-fit individuals. Furthermore, an interaction between BDNF Val66Met and fitness was observed in terms of visuospatial memory performance on a continuous paired associate learning task; whereby lower-fit Met carriers performed 1 standard deviation worse than higher-fit Met carriers. No differences were observed between the higher-fit and lower-fit Val/Val homozygotes. Future intervention studies should evaluate the effect of structured exercise on cognitive health between BDNF Val66Met carriers and Val/Val homozygotes.
- Brain-derived neurotrophic factor Val66Met
- Cardiorespiratory fitness
- Physical activity