Associations of physical activity and screen time with white matter microstructure in children from the general population
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Diffusion tensor imagingBrain developmentSedentary behaviorTelevision viewingVideo gamesActive commuting
Rodriguez-Ayllon, M., Derks, I. P., van den Dries, M. A., Esteban-Cornejo, I., Labrecque, J. A., Yang-Huang, J., ... & Tiemeier, H. (2020). Associations of physical activity and screen time with white matter microstructure in children from the general population. NeuroImage, 205, 116258.
SponsorshipThis study was supported by the Sophia Foundation (S18-20 awarded to RM) and Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) (project 016.VICI.170.200, awarded to HT and TOP 91211021, awarded to TW). Supercomputing resources were supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (Exacte Wetenschappen) and SURFsara (Cartesius Compute Cluster, www.surfsara.nl). The Generation R Study is conducted by the Erasmus Medical Center in close collaboration with the School of Law and the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Municipal Health Service Rotterdam area, and the Stichting Trombosedienst en Artsenlaboratorium Rijnmond. The general design of the Generation R Study was made possible by financial support from the Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, ZonMw, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, and the Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sport. The authors gratefully acknowledge the contributions of the participating children and parents, general practitioners, hospitals, midwives, and pharmacies in Rotterdam. MRA received a scholarship from the University of Granada from the PhD International Mobility Program for a brief stay in the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam (The Netherlands). IEC is supported by a grant from the Alicia Koplowitz Foundation. This work is part of the María Rodriguez-Ayllon Ph.D. Thesis conducted in the Biomedicine Doctoral Studies of the University of Granada, Spain.
Physical activity and sedentary behaviors have been linked to a variety of general health benefits and problems. However, few studies have examined how physical activity during childhood is related to brain development, with the majority of work to date focusing on cardio-metabolic health. This study examines the association between physical activity and screen time with white matter microstructure in the general pediatric population. In a sample of 2532 children (10.12 +- 0.58 years; 50.04% boys) from the Generation R Study, a population-based cohort in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, we assessed physical activity and screen time using parent-reported questionnaires. Magnetic resonance imaging of white matter microstructure was conducted using diffusion tensor imaging. Total physical activity was positively associated with global fractional anisotropy (β = 0.057, 95% CI = 0.016, 0.098, p = 0.007) and negatively associated with global mean diffusivity (β= -0.079, 95% CI= -0.120, -0.038, p < 0.001), two commonly derived scalar measures of white matter microstructure. Two components of total physical activity, outdoor play and sport participation, were positively associated with global fractional anisotropy (β = 0.041, 95% CI=(0.000, 0.083), p = 0.047; β = 0.053, 95% CI=(0.010, 0.096), p = 0.015, respectively) and inversely associated with global mean diffusivity (β=-0.074, 95% CI= (-0.114, -0.033), p < 0.001; β=-0.043, 95% CI=(-0.086, 0.000), p = 0.049, respectively). No associations were observed between screen time and white matter microstructure (p > 0.05). This study provides new evidence that physical activity is modestly associated with white matter microstructure in children. In contrast, complementing other recent evidence on cognition, screen time was not associated with white matter microstructure. Causal inferences from these modest associations must be interpreted cautiously in the absence of longitudinal data. However, these data still offer a promising avenue for future work to explore to what extent physical activity may promote healthy white matter development.