A recent study indicated that acute aerobic exercise improves cognitive flexibility in adults. The current study assessed age, habitual physical activity, and physical fitness as moderators of this improvement and examined whether the gains still exist an hour after the exercise session. The alternative-uses test, assessing cognitive flexibility, was administered individually to 20 older (age 63.67 ± 3.55 yr) and 19 young (age 23.9 ± 1.22) women before, immediately after, and an hour after a single moderate aerobic-exercise session. Results indicated significant improvement in cognitive flexibility in the older group immediately after the exercise but a decrease at the 1-hr follow-up. Further analysis indicated that physical fitness accounted for this improvement (R = –.622, p < .01). No such differences were observed in the young group. Further studies are needed to examine the duration of this effect, as well as the role of physical fitness as a moderator of it.
Yael Netz, Esther Argov and Omri Inbar
Linda Paschen, Tim Lehmann, Miriam Kehne and Jochen Baumeister
monitoring of complex, goal-directed processes involved in perception, memory, and action ( 10 , 13 ). The 3 interrelated and interacting core domains of EF are inhibition, working memory, and cognitive flexibility ( 9 , 10 ). In this context, inhibition describes a deliberate suppression of distracting
Phillip D. Tomporowski and Michel Audiffren
Thirty-one young (mean age = 20.8 years) and 30 older (mean age = 71.5 years) men and women categorized as physically active (n = 30) or inactive (n = 31) performed an executive processing task while standing, treadmill walking at a preferred pace, and treadmill walking at a faster pace. Dual-task interference was predicted to negatively impact older adults’ cognitive flexibility as measured by an auditory switch task more than younger adults; further, participants’ level of physical activity was predicted to mitigate the relation. For older adults, treadmill walking was accompanied by significantly more rapid response times and reductions in local- and mixed-switch costs. A speed-accuracy tradeoff was observed in which response errors increased linearly as walking speed increased, suggesting that locomotion under dual-task conditions degrades the quality of older adults’ cognitive flexibility. Participants’ level of physical activity did not influence cognitive test performance.
Loren Vandenbroucke, Jan Seghers, Karine Verschueren, Anne I. Wijtzes and Dieter Baeyens
The current study investigates how children’s amount of daily physical activity relates to subcomponents of executive functions, the cognitive processes needed for goal-directed behavior. Previous studies rarely determined this association at the subcomponent level and did not explicitly examine the period when children make the transition to first grade, despite its importance for the development of executive functions.
In a sample of 54 children, working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility were thoroughly measured at the subcomponent level at the end of kindergarten and first grade. In the middle of first grade, children wore a pedometer for 7 consecutive days.
Regression analyses showed that performance on a measure of the visuospatial sketchpad, the central executive, and fluency was predicted by children’s amount of daily physical activity after controlling for initial task performance.
The development of the visuospatial sketchpad (working memory), the central executive (working memory), and fluency (cognitive flexibility) might be improved by increasing the amount of time being physically active. However, as other subcomponents of executive functioning were not affected, the role of other aspects of physical activity, such as intensity and content, in the development of executive functions should be further investigated.
Janet L. Starkes and Fran Allard
Volleyball players and nonplayers were compared for speed and accuracy of performance in a task involving detection of the presence of a volleyball in rapidly presented slides of a volleyball situation. Slides depicted both game and nongame situations, and subjects performed the task in both noncompetitive and competitive conditions. For all subjects, game information was perceived more quickly and accurately than nongame information. In competition all subjects showed decreased perceptual accuracy and no change in criterion, supporting the Easterbrook (1959) notion of perceptual narrowing with stress. Very large accompanying increases in response speed, however, suggested that competition may induce adoption of a particular speed-accuracy trade-off. Cognitive flexibility in the adoption of particular speed-accuracy trade-offs is discussed with reference to volleyball.
Patrick R. Thomas and Gerard J. Fogarty
Individual differences in cognitive preferences were examined in analyzing the effects of imagery and self-talk training on the psychological skills and performance levels of amateur golfers. Thirty-two men and women participated in a series of four counterbalanced training workshops and activities conducted over 2 months at two golf clubs. A repeated measures MANOVA revealed significant improvement on five psychological and psychomotor skills measured by the Golf Performance Survey: negative emotions and cognitions, mental preparation, automaticity, putting skill, and seeking improvement. Participants’ responses to the Sport Imagery Questionnaire and ratings of their imagery and self-talk techniques increased significantly after training. Players also lowered their handicaps and performed significantly better on a Golf Skills Test after training. Imagery and self-talk training benefits were not linked to participants’ cognitive preferences. The cognitive flexibility displayed by these golfers signals the need for more research on processing preferences and has implications for practitioners working with athletes.
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.
Caterina Pesce and Michel Audiffren
This study investigated the effects of acute exercise on 53 young (16–24 years) and 47 older (65–74 years) adults’ switch-task performance. Participants practiced sports requiring either low or high cognitive demands. Both at rest and during aerobic exercise, the participants performed two reaction time tasks that differed in the amount of executive control involved in switching between global and local target features of visual compound stimuli. Switch costs were computed as reaction time differences between switch and nonswitch trials. In the low demanding task, switch costs were sensitive only to age, whereas in the high demanding task, they were sensitive to acute exercise, age, and sport-related cognitive expertise. The results suggest that acute exercise enhances cognitive flexibility and facilitates complex switch-task performance. Both young age and habitual practice of cognitively challenging sports are associated with smaller switch costs, but neither age nor cognitive expertise seem to moderate the relationship between acute exercise and switch-task performance.
Anneke G. van der Niet, Joanne Smith, Jaap Oosterlaan, Erik J.A. Scherder, Esther Hartman and Chris Visscher
The objective of this study was to analyze the effects of a physical activity program including both aerobic exercise and cognitively engaging physical activities on children’s physical fitness and executive functions. Children from 3 primary schools (aged 8–12 years) were recruited. A quasi-experimental design was used. Children in the intervention group (n = 53; 19 boys, 34 girls) participated in a 22-week physical activity program for 30 min during lunch recess, twice a week. Children in the control group (n = 52; 32 boys, 20 girls) followed their normal lunch routine. Aerobic fitness, speed and agility, and muscle strength were assessed using the Eurofit test battery. Executive functions were assessed using tasks measuring inhibition (Stroop test), working memory (Visual Memory Span test, Digit Span test), cognitive flexibility (Trailmaking test), and planning (Tower of London). Children in the intervention group showed significantly greater improvement than children in the control group on the Stroop test and Digit Span test, reflecting enhanced inhibition and verbal working memory skills, respectively. No differences were found on any of the physical fitness variables. A physical activity program including aerobic exercise and cognitively engaging physical activities can enhance aspects of executive functioning in primary school children.
Kate Riegle van West, Cathy Stinear and Ralph Buck
speed (finger tapping and symbol digit coding); motor speed (finger tapping); processing speed (symbol digit coding); reaction time (Stroop); simple attention (continuous performance); complex attention (Stroop, shifting attention and continuous performance); cognitive flexibility (shifting attention