This study aimed to determine how cognitive control, engaged in a task requiring selective inhibition, is affected by acute steady-state exercise. An adapted version of the Eriksen flanker task, involving three types of trials that varied according to their level of congruency (congruent trials, stimulus-incongruent trials, and response-incongruent trials) was performed during 2 periods of 20-min cycling at a carefully controlled intensity (50% of maximal aerobic power). The results indicated that moderate exercise improves reaction time (RT) performance on the Eriksen flanker task. This facilitating effect appeared to be neither dependent on the nature of the interference (stimulus level conflict vs. response level conflict) nor on the amount of cognitive control engaged in the task (congruent vs. incongruent trials). Distributional RT analyses did not highlight any sign of impairment in the efficiency of cognitive control.
Davranche is with the Sport, Exercise, and Health Sciences Department, University of Chichester, Chichester, United Kingdom, and the Laboratoire de Neurobiologie de la Cognition, Université de Provence et CNRS, Marseille, France. Hall and McMorris are with the Sport, Exercise, and Health Sciences Department, University of Chichester, Chichester, United Kingdom.