Endurance exercise selectively impairs prefrontal-dependent cognition

Brain Cogn. 2004 Aug;55(3):516-24. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2004.03.002.


Two experiments are reported that examine the possibility that exercise selectively influences different types of cognition. To our knowledge, these experiments represent the first attempt to study higher-cognitive processes during exercise. Theoretical thinking was guided by the transient hypofrontality hypothesis. In both experiments, athletes who exercised at a sustained, moderate pace were compared to sedentary controls on two neuropsychological tests, one that is generally regarded as heavily dependent on prefrontal cognition and one that is relatively insensitive to prefrontal operation. Results showed that during exercise performance on tests demanding prefrontal-dependent cognition was impaired, while at the same time, cognitive processes requiring little prefrontal activity were unaffected.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Physical Exertion / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Problem Solving / physiology
  • Reference Values