The impact of varied physical load on an executive function task

Posted on August 6, 2010


Another from

Research Spotlight – in progress

Image is Oringen 458 by Ultimate-Orienteering.

Ben Rattray, Disa Smee and James Neill

Abstract: Exercise tends to facilitate cognitiveperformance although there are a number of caveats to this phenomenon. Higher levels of cognitive function appear influenced by the length, intensity and perhaps type of exercise. Interactions generally accepted to interfere in peripheral exercise physiology including heat, altitude and access to fuel can also have profound influence on cognition. Studies of the interaction between acute exercise and cognition tend to focus on constant load or incremental exercise last only a few minutes. These protocols replicate the demands of few (if any) true life sporting or occupational demands that typically involve periods of high and low intensities. It has been proposed that a cognitive reserve exists and that cognitive performance will not deteriorate until the amount of resources is insufficient to deal with both physical and cognitive tasks. It is intuitive that, if this is the case, the reserve will not be challenged until conditions are considerably taxing. This study’s primary aim is to evaluate the impact of varied physical workload on in executive function and a range of physiological correlates.

Plain English: Mental, or cognitive performance, is often improved during steady moderate exercise. Decision making however is often conducted under conditions in which the physical requirements are varied and heavy (e.g., sporting setting, emergency services and military operations). There is some evidence to suggest that heavy exercise, temporarily impairs cognitive performance, but it is unknown how changes in physical load will impact on decision making. The outcomes of the study are likely to influence physical preparation and strategies aimed at limiting any deterioration in cognitive performance during physically stressful conditions in both sporting and occupational settings.

Image is Oringen 458 by Ultimate-Orienteering.

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