Directors: Antonio M. Battro and Kurt W. Fischer
Program officer: María Lourdes Majdalani
The study of the relationship between physical fitness and cognition dates back several decades. Fitness training was found to have benefits for cognition, with the largest fitness-induced benefits occurring for executive control processes. Still, little is known about the cortical mechanisms that underlie these benefits in humans. Research using animal models shows that aerobic training increases cortical capillary supplies, the number of synaptic connections, and the development of new hippocampal neurons. The brain seems to become more efficient, plastic and adaptive through physical training, which translates into better performance in animals. Despite the impressive results with animals, the fitness interventions with humans have produced less reliable effects on cognitive performance. In this study we tested the hypothesis that a 30-minute individually customized endurance exercise training, three times weekly for six weeks has the potential to enhance working memory, attentiveness and the well-being of healthy participants. Gaining insight to processes by which physical activity might enhance cognitive ability might give us some idea how to organize a regular school day including periodical exercise.