The Impact of Acute Aerobic Exercise on Semantic Memory Activation in Healthy Older Adults
Smith, Jerome C
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Background: A growing body of exercise literature use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technique to measure the effects of exercise on the brain. Findings suggest that regular participation of long-term exercise is associated with enhanced cognitive function. However, fundamental questions regarding the beneficial effects of acute exercise on semantic memory have been ignored. Purpose: This study investigated the effects of a single session of exercise on brain activation during recognition of Famous names and Non-Famous names compared to seated-rest in healthy older adults (age 65-85) using fMRI. We also aimed to measure whether there are differences in brain activation during retrieval of Famous names from three distinct time epochs (Remote, Enduring, and Recent) following acute exercise. Methods: Using a within-subjects counterbalanced design, 30 participants (ages 55-85) will undergo two experimental visits on separate days. During each visit, participants will engage in 30-minutes of rest or stationary cycling exercise immediately followed by the famous name discrimination task (FNT). Neuroimaging and behavioral data will be processed using AFNI (version 17.1.06) and SPSS (version 23), respectively. Results: HR and RPE were significantly higher during exercise. Acute exercise was associated with significantly greater semantic memory activation (Famous > Non-Famous) in five out of nine regions (p-value ranged 0.027 to 0.046). In an exploratory epoch analysis, five out of 14 brain regions activated ruing the semantic memory task showed significantly greater activation intensity following the exercise intervention (Enduringly Famous > Non-Famous). Conclusions: Enhanced semantic memory processing is observed following acute exercise, characterized by greater fMRI response to Famous than Non-Famous names. Enduringly Famous names exhibited significantly greater activation after exercise compared to Non-Famous names. These findings suggest that exercise may improve semantic memory retrieval in healthy older adults, and may lead to enhancement of cognitive function.