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Brain Cogn. 2013 Feb;81(1):10-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2012.10.001. Epub 2012 Nov 10.

Decline in executive control during acute bouts of exercise as a function of exercise intensity and fitness level.

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Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Montréal C.P. 8888 succursale Centre-ville, Montréal, QC, Canada H3C 3P8.


Studies on the effects of acute bouts of cardiovascular exercise on cognitive performances show contradictory findings due to methodological differences (e.g., exercise intensity, cognitive function assessed, participants' aerobic fitness level, etc.). The present study assessed the acute effect of exercise intensity on cognition while controlling for key methodological confounds. Thirty-seven participants (M(age)=23. 8 years; SD=2.6) completed a computerized modified-Stroop task (involving denomination, inhibition and switching conditions) while pedalling at 40%, 60% and 80% of their peak power output (PPO). Results showed that in the switching condition of the task, error rates increased as a function of exercise intensity (from 60% to 80% of PPO) in all participants and that lower fit individuals showed increased reaction time variability. This suggests that acute bouts of cardiovascular exercise can momentarily alter executive control and increase performance instability in lower fit individuals.

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