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Neuroscience. 2008 Nov 19;157(2):319-28. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.09.014. Epub 2008 Sep 13.

Fitness and action monitoring: evidence for improved cognitive flexibility in young adults.

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Department of Psychology, Illinois Wesleyan University, P.O. Box 2900, Bloomington, IL 61702-2900, USA.


To improve behavior, one must detect errors and initiate subsequent corrective adaptations. This action monitoring process has been widely studied, but little is known about how one may improve this aspect of cognition. To examine the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and action monitoring, we recorded the error-related negativity (ERN), an event-related brain potential believed to index action monitoring, as well as post-error behavioral indices of action monitoring from healthy young adults (18-25 years) who varied in cardiorespiratory fitness. These measures were collected during the execution of flanker tasks emphasizing response accuracy or speed to better assess the specificity of any potential relationships between fitness and action monitoring. Higher fitness was associated with greater post-error accuracy and ERN amplitude during task conditions emphasizing accuracy, as well as greater modulation of these indices across task instruction conditions. These findings suggest that higher fitness is associated with increased cognitive flexibility, evidenced through greater change in action monitoring indices as a function of task parameters. Thus, fitness may benefit action monitoring by selectively increasing cognitive control under conditions where error detection and performance adjustments are more salient.

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