Cardiovascular risk factors, low physical fitness tied to social cognitive functions?
In the current circumstances, where the number of people at risk of cardiovascular disease and those with low fitness levels are increasing, finding out whether or not these people are also at risk of decreased social cognition is a pressing issue. With this in mind, the research team led by Toru Ishihara et. al used functional magnetic resonance imaging data to investigate the relationship between cardiovascular risk factors, fitness and social cognition.
In the study the team analyzed the data of 1027 people registered in the Human Connectome Project's database (USA). For the cardiovascular risk factors, the researchers used Body Mass Index (BMI), which is calculated from each person's height and weight, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure data. As for indicators of fitness, the researchers used respiratory endurance, gait speed, hand dexterity, and grip strength. To assess social cognitive function, they used animacy perception accuracy, and the reaction times and percentage of correct answers for the emotion recognition task.
Brain activity during social cognition (i.e. during animacy perception) was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging. The research group then used the collected data to investigate the relationship between brain activity during social cognition and cardiovascular risk factors/physical fitness. Afterward, they investigated how brain activity during social cognition mediates the relationship between cardiovascular risk factors/fitness and social cognitive functions.
It was revealed that cardiovascular risk factors (obesity and high blood pressure) and low physical fitness are associated with decreased social brain network-related neural activity, which causes social cognitive functions to decline.
This suggests that having a healthy lifestyle is not only beneficial for disease prevention but also for maintaining and improving sociability. It is hoped that future research will lead to the development of proposals for efficient intervention methods through investigations into the effectiveness of interventions that target cardiovascular risk factors and fitness (eg. exercise/balanced diet programs) on social cognition.
Reference: Toru Ishihara, Graduate School of Human Development and Environment, Kobe University. Assistant Professor Atsushi Miyazaki, Global Education Center, Waseda University. Specially Appointed Assistant Professor Hiroki Tanaka, Brain Science Institute, Tamagawa University Professor Tetsuya Matsuda, Brain Science Institute, Tamagawa University. Journal: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002963
Dr. Nandita Mohan
BDS, MDS( Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry)