BACKGROUND: Previous investigations have suggested that physical activity, with emerging data related to resistance exercise with blood flow restriction training (BFR), can acutely improve cognition. Our purpose was to determine which modality of resistance exercise elicited the greatest acute change in various cognitive domains and cerebral blood flow as measured by the internal carotid artery (ICA). METHODS: 20 healthy college-aged (22 ± 4 yrs) adults (9 female) completed familiarization and experimental visits. During the familiarization visits, the participants completed one-repetition maximum (1RM) of bilateral leg extension and cognitive testing. Participants completed baseline cognitive testing on three occasions to yield an average score, negating the practice effect. The randomized, volume-equated experimental visits consisted of 30%1RM, 30%1RM + BFR, and 70%1RM. The repetition scheme of the 30%1RM trials was 1×30, 3×15, whereas the high-load was 4×8. Eleven minutes following each exercise bout, participants completed the Stroop and Shifting Attention tests through the computer-based CNS Vital Signs. Baseline and post-exercise values were used to calculate change scores, and the resulting means were evaluated with 2-way mixed factorial ANOVAs (Sex × Exercise Scheme). A p≤0.05 was considered statistically significant. RESULTS: All measured outcome variables increased in response to exercise. The 2-way mixed factorial ANOVAs for cognitive scores indicated that there were no significant (p>0.05) interactions, but for cognitive flexibility and executive function, there were main effects of Sex. The women demonstrated a significantly greater increase in cognitive flexibility (16.0 ± 7.6 vs. 6.1 ± 10.8 au; p = 0.010, 95% CI XΔ = 10.6 - 21.4) and executive function (15.9 ± 7.1 vs. 6.2 ± 9.5 au; p=0.003, 95% CI XΔ = 3.6 - 15.8) than the men. For the exercise-induced increases in ICA blood flow, there was not a significant interaction or any significant main effects between conditions. CONCLUSIONS: Each resistance exercise scheme yielded acute improvement in cognition, which was more pronounced in females. Additionally, all resistance exercises equally increased ICA blood flow. Future studies should evaluate chronic changes as a result of these exercises as well, particularly in populations at risk for Alzheimer's Disease and related dementias.

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