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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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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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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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Arthur F. Kramer, Sowon Hahn and Edward McAuley

The article provides a brief review of the literature on the relationship between aerobic Fitness and neurocognitive function, particularly as it relates to older adults. Cross-sectional studies provide strong support for the beneficial influence of fitness on neurocognitive function. The longitudinal or interventional literature, however, provides more equivocal support for this relationship. In discussing the literature, the authors introduce a new hypothesis, the executive control/fitness hypothesis, which suggests that selective neurocognitive benefits will be observed with improvements in aerobic fitness; that is, executive control processes that include planning, scheduling, task coordination, inhibition, and working memory will benefit from enhanced fitness. Preliminary evidence for this hypothesis is discussed.

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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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Jamie L. Moul, Bert Goldman and Beverly Warren

The effect of exercise on cognitive performance in an older population was studied. Thirty sedentary men and women 65–72 years of age were randomly assigned to a walking group, a weight training group, or a placebo control group. Intervention groups exercised 30–60 min 5 days per week for 16 weeks, with the walking group training at 60% heart rate reserve, the weight training group employing the DAPRE method of weight progression, and the placebo control group engaging in mild range-of-motion and flexibility movements that kept their heart rates close to resting levels. At baseline and 16 weeks posttraining each subject completed the Ross Information Processing Assessment (RIPA), a maximal graded treadmill test, and a strength assessment of the knee extensors and elbow flexors. Sixteen weeks of walking improved VO2peak of the sedentary subjects 15.8%; VO2peak did not improve in the other two groups. Additionally, the RIPA scores of the walking group increased 7.5%, while those of the weight-training and control groups showed little change.

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Christopher J. Brush, Ryan L. Olson, Peter J. Ehmann, Steven Osovsky and Brandon L. Alderman

The purpose of this study was to examine possible dose–response and time course effects of an acute bout of resistance exercise on the core executive functions of inhibition, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. Twenty-eight participants (14 female; M age = 20.5 ± 2.1 years) completed a control condition and resistance exercise bouts performed at 40%, 70%, and 100% of their individual 10-repetition maximum. An executive function test battery was administered at 15 min and 180 min postexercise to assess immediate and delayed effects of exercise on executive functioning. At 15 min postexercise, high-intensity exercise resulted in less interference and improved reaction time (RT) for the Stroop task, while at 180 min low- and moderate-intensity exercise resulted in improved performance on plus–minus and Simon tasks, respectively. These findings suggest a limited and task-specific influence of acute resistance exercise on executive function in healthy young adults.

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Angela L. Ridgel, Chul-Ho Kim, Emily J. Fickes, Matthew D. Muller and Jay L. Alberts

Individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD) often experience cognitive declines. Although pharmacologic therapies are helpful in treating motor deficits in PD, they do not appear to be effective for cognitive complications. Acute bouts of moderate aerobic exercise have been shown to improve cognitive function in healthy adults. However, individuals with PD often have difficulty with exercise. This study examined the effects of passive leg cycling on executive function in PD. Executive function was assessed with Trail-Making Test (TMT) A and B before and after passive leg cycling. Significant improvements on the TMT-B test occurred after passive leg cycling. Furthermore, the difference between times to complete the TMT-B and TMT-A significantly decreased from precycling to postcycling. Improved executive function after passive cycling may be a result of increases in cerebral blood flow. These findings suggest that passive exercise could be a concurrent therapy for cognitive decline in PD.

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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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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.