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Robert L. Wilkes and Jeffery J. Summers

The effectiveness of five types of cognitive preparation on strength performance was examined in a 2 X 5 (Pre- and Posttest × Mental Preparation Condition) design, with repeated measures on pre-posttest. The mental preparation conditions were: arousal, attention, imagery, self-efficacy, and a control read condition. Immediately following the posttest trials, subjects completed a questionnaire measuring various cognitive states. The results showed that preparatory arousal and self-efficacy techniques produced significantly greater posttest strength performance than the control group. Analysis of the postexperimental questionnaire data suggested that a general effect of the preparation strategies used was to focus attention on the task to be performed. It was concluded that the effectiveness of a particular cognitive strategy may depend on the nature of the task to be performed and the particular aspects of the task to which attention is directed.

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Kathryn T. Goode and David L. Roth

Experienced runners completed a Thoughts During Running Scale (TORS) immediately after a typical training run to assess the prevalence of certain thoughts during running. The Profile of Mood States (POMS) was also completed before and after the run. Confirmatory factor analyses revealed that a five-factor model provided better fit than simpler models. Items concerning the demands of the running activity and the monitoring of body responses loaded on one "associative" factor. The four "nonassociative" factors in this model were labeled Daily Events, Interpersonal Relationships, External Surroundings, and Spiritual Reflection. Correlational analyses indicated small but significant relationships between the TDRS dimensions and changes in mood. Increases in vigor were correlated with the tendency to engage in nonassociative thought, and decreases in tension and anxiety were found among those who thought about interpersonal relationships during the run. These results supplement findings on the effects of certain thought patterns during strenuous exercise.

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Arthur D. Fisk and Wendy A. Rogers

Two important questions are addressed in this article. The first concerns whether performance of well-learned skills is maintained as individuals grow older. The second question concerns whether older adults are able to acquire new skills. The answer to both questions is “yes”; however, the acquisition rate and the final performance level for newly acquired skills is generally less for older adults than for younger adults. The article resolves an apparent puzzle of how it is that older adults are capable of successful performance of everyday activities, given noted declines in cognitive-ability-type tasks shown for performance in laboratory studies. A brief discussion of age-related training strategies to enhance skill learning is provided.

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Phillip D. Tomporowski

Several approaches have been taken to evaluate the effects of physical and mental training interventions on the mental abilities of older adults. A selective review of theory-based research suggests that older adults’ mental functioning may improve following both forms of training; however, the mechanisms that underlie these changes are not well understood. Several multidisciplinary approaches are evaluated that may help to explain how both exercise and mental training interventions may modify or offset age-related declines in mental abilities.

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A. Mark Williams, Joan Vickers and Sergio Rodrigues

Processing efficiency theory predicts that anxiety reduces the processing capacity of working memory and has detrimental effects on performance. When tasks place little demand on working memory, the negative effects of anxiety can be avoided by increasing effort. Although performance efficiency decreases, there is no change in performance effectiveness. When tasks impose a heavy demand on working memory, however, anxiety leads to decrements in efficiency and effectiveness. These presumptions were tested using a modified table tennis task that placed low (LWM) and high (HWM) demands on working memory. Cognitive anxiety was manipulated through a competitive ranking structure and prize money. Participants’ accuracy in hitting concentric circle targets in predetermined sequences was taken as a measure of performance effectiveness, while probe reaction time (PRT), perceived mental effort (RSME), visual search data, and arm kinematics were recorded as measures of efficiency. Anxiety had a negative effect on performance effectiveness in both LWM and HWM tasks. There was an increase in frequency of gaze and in PRT and RSME values in both tasks under high vs. low anxiety conditions, implying decrements in performance efficiency. However, participants spent more time tracking the ball in the HWM task and employed a shorter tau margin when anxious. Although anxiety impaired performance effectiveness and efficiency, decrements in efficiency were more pronounced in the HWM task than in the LWM task, providing support for processing efficiency theory.

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Sandra A. Billinger, Eric D. Vidoni, Jill K. Morris, John P. Thyfault and Jeffrey M. Burns

Positive physiologic and cognitive responses to aerobic exercise have resulted in a proposed cardiorespiratory (CR) fitness hypothesis in which fitness gains drive changes leading to cognitive benefit. The purpose of this study was to directly assess the CR fitness hypothesis. Using data from an aerobic exercise trial, we examined individuals who completed cardiopulmonary and cognitive testing at baseline and 26 weeks. Change in cognitive test performance was not related to CR fitness change (r 2 = .06, p = .06). However, in the subset of individuals who gave excellent effort during exercise testing, change in cognitive test performance was related to CR fitness change (r 2 = .33, p < .01). This was largely due to change in the cognitive domain of attention (r 2 = .36, p < .01). The magnitude of change was not explained by duration of exercise. Our findings support further investigation of the CR fitness hypothesis and mechanisms by which physiologic adaptation may drive cognitive change.

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Yu-Kai Chang and Jennifer L. Etnier

The purpose of this study was to explore the dose-response relationship between resistance exercise intensity and cognitive performance. Sixty-eight participants were randomly assigned into control, 40%, 70%, or 100% of 10-repetition maximal resistance exercise groups. Participants were tested on Day 1 (baseline) and on Day 2 (measures were taken relative to performance of the treatment). Heart rate, ratings of perceived exertion, self-reported arousal, and affect were assessed on both days. Cognitive performance was assessed on Day 1 and before and following treatment on Day 2. Results from regression analyses indicated that there is a significant linear effect of exercise intensity on information processing speed, and a significant quadratic trend for exercise intensity on executive function. Thus, there is a dose-response relationship between the intensity of resistance exercise and cognitive performance such that high-intensity exercise benefits speed of processing, but moderate intensity exercise is most beneficial for executive function.

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Jennifer L. Etnier, Benjamin A. Sibley, Jeremy Pomeroy and James C. Kao

Research suggests that there are differences in response time (RespT) as a function of age but that aerobic fitness might have a facilitatory effect on RespT. This study was designed to examine this relationship while addressing methodological issues from past research. Men from 3 age groups completed speeded tasks, a physical activity questionnaire, and an aerobic-fitness test. Results indicated that age has a negative impact on RespT (specifically premotor time and movement time). The interaction of aerobic fitness by age was also a significant predictor of RespT (specifically movement time) such that aerobic fitness was positively related to speed of performance for older participants. It is concluded that aerobic fitness might serve a preservative function for speeded tasks in older adults.

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Chun-Chih Wang, Chien-Heng Chu, I-Hua Chu, Kuei-Hui Chan and Yu-Kai Chang

This study was designed to examine the modulation of executive functions during acute exercise and to determine whether exercise intensity moderates this relationship. Eighty college-aged adults were recruited and randomly assigned into one of the four following groups: control, 30%, 50%, and 80% heart rate reserve. The Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) was administered during each intervention. The results indicated that the majority of the WCST performances were impaired in the high exercise intensity group relative to those of the other three groups, whereas similar performance rates were maintained in the low- and moderate-intensity groups. These findings suggest that transient hypofrontality occurs during high-intensity exercise, but not during low- and moderate-intensity exercises. Future research aimed at employing the dual-mode theory, and applying the reticular-activating hypofrontality model is recommended to further the current knowledge.

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John R. Biggan, Forest Melton, Michael A. Horvat, Mark Ricard, David Keller and Christopher T. Ray

The understanding of prefrail and nonfrail older adults’ postural control with and without increased environmental and cognitive stress is imperative to the development of targeted interventions to decrease fall risk within these populations. Thirty-eight individuals participated in this study. Postural control testing included the Sensory Organization Test (SOT) on a NeuroCom EquiTest. Cognitive and environmental load testing was performed during Condition 6 of the SOT. Though there were no group differences on composite equilibrium score (p = .06), the cognitive task (Stroop task) impaired equilibrium scores more than the auditory or visual distracter tasks (p < .05 and p < .01) for both groups. These results suggest that both prefrail and nonfrail older adults’ postural control is reduced in demanding environments. Given these findings, the need for multimodal exercise interventions to target both physical and cognitive factors is apparent.