A.L.Cummins, S. M. Clay, B. A. Coad, K. R. Nelson, B. A. Cariño, and D.B. Thorp

Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA

PURPOSE: Exercise has been shown to be beneficial to memory and cognitive function, particularly when performed before or after a learning task. This study examined the effects of studying during moderate intensity cycling on memory, hypothesizing that exercising while studying enhances long-term memory over sedentary studying. METHODS: 20 untrained subjects (9 males, 11 females; age: 20.5 ± 1.1 yr, mass: 70.3 ± 13.1 kg, height: 171.8 ± 12.9 cm) participated in two 30 min. learning sessions separated by two weeks; one while sedentary and one while exercising. The exercise condition consisted of cycling on a stationary ergometer at 70-75% of estimated maximal heart rate (HR). Subjects began cycling at 75 W with power increased by 5 W (females) and 10 W (males) each minute until the target HR was achieved (108.3 ± 26.0 W). HR was monitored throughout and power output was adjusted to maintain HR in the specified range. For each learning session, 30 pictures of everyday objects were paired with artificial words created by the researchers. These pairs were displayed side by side on a monitor in a slide show that scrolled through all 30 pairs in 5 min, which was repeated six times for a total of 30 min of learning. Written tests were administered 24 h after each learning session to evaluate subjects’ memory in recalling the picture-word pairs. Blood glucose (BG) concentration and survey data (self-rated focus, rate of perceived exertion (RPE), and GPA) were collected after all learning and testing sessions. Test scores were compared between conditions by paired t-test. Pearson’s correlation were used to examine relationships between test scores and all variables. RESULTS: No difference was observed in test scores between sedentary (55.33 ± 26.81 %) and exercise (60.17 ± 26.90 %) learning trials (p = 0.133). Focus was correlated to test score in both exercise (r = 0.521, p < 0.05) and sedentary (r = 0.477, p < 0.05) conditions. BMI had a negative correlation to exercise test score (r = -0.495, p < 0.05), but not to sedentary score (r = -0.413, p = 0.070), though still negative and nearly significant. BG, RPE and GPA were not correlated with test score (p > 0.05). CONCLUSION: Overall, studying while exercising had neither a beneficial nor detrimental effect on memory. The data suggests subjects with a higher BMI performed worse on the memory tasks, which is in agreement with the literature on the relationship between memory and general fitness. It is suggested this relationship is in part due to the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) associated with regular exercise. The current results indicate that moderate exercise does not have an acute effect on BDNF-mediated changes in memory.

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