C-20 Free Communication/Poster - Cognition I: JUNE 3, 2010 7:30 AM - 12:30 PM: ROOM: Hall C
Over the last two decades, electrophysiological studies examining event-related brain potentials (ERPs), and in particular the P3 component, have demonstrated cognitive benefits associated with regular physical activity (PA) for older adult populations. It has been reported that the largest benefits of PA occur for tasks with larger executive control requirements. In contrast to older adult populations, ERP findings for younger adult populations have been divided regarding whether PA improves cognitive function or not.
PURPOSE: This study examined whether PA influences executive control function in young adults using behavioral measures and the P3 component. To this end, we used a task switching paradigm that has been used extensively to examine executive control functions, because this paradigm requires working memory, inhibition, and mental flexibility.
METHODS: Forty young adults (21.4 ± 0.3 yrs; 19 females) were separated into active and sedentary groups according to their regular PA level. Participants performed the task switching paradigm with two conditions. The pure task condition required repeated performance on a single-task (e.g., AAAAAA); the mixed-task condition required participants to change rapidly between different tasks (e.g., AABBAA). The mixed-task condition created greater executive control requirements due to working memory demands for maintenance of multiple task sets in memory (compared to the pure task; i.e., mixing cost) and due to requisite inhibition of a task set on switch trials (versus non-switch trials; i.e., switch costs).
RESULTS: Behavioral data showed a smaller mixing cost and a smaller switch cost for the active group relative to the sedentary group. Furthermore, during the pure task, amplitude of the P3 was larger than during the mixed-task condition only for the sedentary group, no parallel differences were evident in ERP data of the active group.
CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that when the task requires greater amounts of executive control, the physically active group demonstrates a more efficient executive functioning than the sedentary group. This research presents evidence that regular PA selectively improves executive function, as represented by the task switching paradigm, even during young adulthood.