From Medical Xpress:

Postdoctoral researcher Laura Chaddock-Heyman, University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Charles Hillman and their colleagues found that higher-fit kids had thinner gray matter and better mathematics achievement than their lower-fit peers. Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

A new study reveals that 9- and 10-year-old children who are aerobically fit tend to have significantly thinner gray matter than their “low-fit” peers. Thinning of the outermost layer of brain cells in the cerebrum is associated with better mathematics performance, researchers report in the journal PLOS ONE.

The study suggests, but does not prove, that cardiorespiratory contributes to thinning – a normal process of child development. The study also offers the first evidence that fitness enhances math skills by aiding the development of brain structures that contribute to mathematics achievement.

“Gray-matter loss during child development is part of healthy maturation,” said University of Illinois postdoctoral researcher Laura Chaddock-Heyman, who led the research with U. of I. Beckman Institute for Science and Technology director Art Kramer and kinesiology and community health professor Charles Hillman. “Gray-matter thinning is the sculpting of a fully formed, healthy brain. The theory is that the brain is pruning away unnecessary connections and strengthening useful connections.”

Previous studies have shown that gray-matter thinning is associated with better reasoning and thinking skills, Chaddock-Heyman said.

“We show, for the first time, that aerobic fitness may play a role in this cortical thinning,” she said. “In particular, we find that higher-fit 9- and 10-year-olds show a…

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