Monday, August 10, 2015

Habitual exercise correlates with lower distractibility.

Yet another demonstration of the salutary effects of long term exercise on mental function:
Aging is associated with compromised executive control functions. Several lines of evidence point to beneficial effects of physical activity on cognition which indicate that regular physical activity may counteract the age-related decline of some executive functions. Here, we investigate the effects of lifelong physical activity (about 50 years) on interference processing in two matched groups of 20 physically high active and 20 low active healthy older men using event-related potentials (ERPs). In a low interference block of the Stroop task, participants had to indicate the meaning of color-words, while color was either compatible or incompatible with the meaning. In the high interference block, participants were asked to respond according to the ink color of the word and to ignore its meaning. Physically active seniors showed faster reaction times, lower individual variability in reaction times, and higher accuracy compared to low active seniors, particularly in the high interference block. This result was confirmed in the classic paper-and-pencil version of the Stroop task showing higher interference score in the low active than high active individuals. ERPs revealed a shorter latency of the P2 and generally more negative amplitudes of the fronto-central N2 and N450 components in the high active group compared to the low active group. The amount of interference was negatively correlated with objectively measured fitness and self-reported physical activity. The positive effect of physical fitness on interference processing in the behavioral data was related to N2 and N450 amplitudes. Taken together, this suggests that seniors reporting long-term physical activity may exhibit generally enhanced activity in the frontal cortex which enables more efficient interference resolution in the Stroop task.

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