F-42 Featured Science Session - Exercise Effects on Brain and Cognition: A Life-Span Perspective: FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2009 3:15 PM - 5:15 PM ROOM: 6A
Over the last decade, neuroelectric studies using event-related brain potentials (ERPs), and in particular the P3 component, have resulted in a deeper understanding of the relationship between acute aerobic exercise and cognitive functions. However, these previous ERP studies have been focused on young adults. Thus, it remains unclear whether similar acute aerobic exercise effects on cognitive function would extend to adults experiencing cognitive aging.
PURPOSE: To investigate the effects of acute aerobic exercise on human cognitive function in older adults.
METHODS: Twenty-four males (12 older adults: 65.5 ± 5.1 yrs, 12 young adults: 21.8 ± 2.1 yrs) participated in this experiment. They performed a modified flanker task during a baseline session (no exercise) and after light (30% VO2max) and moderate (50% VO2max) cycling exercise in counter-balanced order on different days, while measures of task performance (reaction time, response accuracy), P3 amplitude and latency were collected.
RESULTS: Reaction times were shorter following moderate exercise (M= 401.5 ± 12.0 ms), compared to the baseline (M= 412.4 ± 12.4 ms) and light exercise (M= 414.3 ± 12.7 ms) sessions, for both age groups. Furthermore, P3 latencies following both light (M= 389.7 ± 5.3 ms) and moderate exercise (M= 390.3 ± 5.1 ms) were shorter than during the baseline session (M= 397.8 ± 5.3 ms) for both age groups. These results support previous studies indicating that acute aerobic exercise facilitates cognitive function, suggesting that these effects were same irrespective of age. In contrast, P3 amplitude increased only following moderate exercise (M = 11.1 ± 0.8 μV) relative to the baseline session (M = 9.5 ± 0.9 μV) for younger adults. No such effect on P3 amplitude was observed for the older group.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest light and moderate aerobic exercise improves cognitive function across the adult lifespan, although the mechanisms underlying the observed acute aerobic exercise effects on cognitive function may be age-dependent. The present study provides additional support for the beneficial effects of exercise on cognition during older adulthood.