Numerous studies have provided evidence that physical activity promotes cortical plasticity in the adult brain and in turn facilitates learning. However, until now, the effect of simultaneous physical activity (e.g. bicycling) on learning performance has not been investigated systematically. The current study aims at clarifying whether simultaneous motor activity influences verbal learning compared to learning in a physically passive situation. Therefore the learning behavior of 12 healthy subjects (4 male, 19-33 years) was monitored over a period of 3 weeks. During that time, behavioral and electrophysiological responses to memorized materials were measured. We found a larger N400 effect and better performance in vocabulary tests when subjects were physically active during the encoding phase. Thus, our data indicate that simultaneous physical activity during vocabulary learning facilitates memorization of new items.
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