Acute exercise effects predict training change in cognition and connectivity

Michelle W. Voss, Timothy B. Weng, Krithika Narayana-Kumanan, Rachel C. Cole, Conner Wharff, Lauren Reist, Lyndsey Dubose, Gardar Sigurdsson, James A. Mills, Jeffrey D. Long, Vincent A. Magnotta, Gary L. Pierce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Purpose Previous studies report memory and functional connectivity of memory systems improve acutely after a single aerobic exercise session or with training, suggesting that the acute effects of aerobic exercise may reflect initial changes that adapt over time. In this trial, for the first time, we test the proof-of-concept of whether the acute and training effects of aerobic exercise on working memory and brain network connectivity are related in the same participants. Methods Cognitively normal older participants (N = 34) were enrolled in a randomized clinical trial (NCT02453178). Participants completed fMRI resting state and a face working memory N-back task acutely after light- and moderate-intensity exercises and after a 12-wk aerobic training intervention. Results Functional connectivity did not change more after moderate-intensity training compared with light-intensity training. However, both training groups showed similar changes in cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) (maximal exercise oxygen uptake, V-O2peak), limiting group-level comparisons. Acute effects of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise on connections primarily in the default network predicted training enhancements in the same connections. Working memory also improved acutely, especially after moderate-intensity, and greater acute improvements predicted greater working memory improvement with training. Exercise effects on functional connectivity of right lateralized frontoparietal connections were related to both acute and training gains in working memory. Conclusions Our data support the concept of acute aerobic exercise effects on functional brain systems and performance as an activity-evoked biomarker for exercise training benefits in the same outcomes. These findings may lead to new insights and methods for improving memory outcomes with aerobic exercise training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-140
Number of pages10
JournalMedicine and science in sports and exercise
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

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