No, it doesn’t mean that runners are smarter than the rest off us, but research conducted at the University of Arizona has found that runners, overall, have greater functional connectivity — or connections between distinct brain regions — within several areas of the brain, including the frontal cortex, which is important for cognitive functions such as planning, decision-making and the ability to switch attention between tasks. A U of Arizona news release reports that the researchers compared MRI scans of the brains of a group of male cross country runners to the scans of young adult males who hadn’t engaged in any kind of organized athletic activity for at least a year. Participants were roughly the same age — 18 to 25 — with comparable body mass index and educational levels. The scans measured resting state functional connectivity, or what goes on in the brain while participants are awake but at rest, not engaging in any specific task. Previous studies have shown that activities that require fine motor control, such as playing a musical instrument, or that require high levels of hand-eye coordination, such as playing golf, can alter brain structure and function, but fewer studies have looked at the effects of more repetitive athletic activities that don’t require as much precise motor control — such as running. The new findings suggest that these types of activities could have a similar effect.