Acute moderate exercise enhances compensatory brain activation in older adults

Neurobiol Aging. 2012 Nov;33(11):2621-32. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2011.12.022. Epub 2012 Feb 1.


A growing number of reports state that regular exercise enhances brain function in older adults. Recently a functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) study revealed that an acute bout of moderate exercise enhanced activation of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (L-DLPFC) associated with Stroop interference in young adults. Whether this acute effect is also applicable to older adults was examined. Sixteen older adults performed a color-word matching Stroop task before and after 10 minutes of exercise on a cycle ergometer at a moderate intensity. Cortical hemodynamics of the prefrontal area was monitored with a fNIRS during the Stroop task. We analyzed Stroop interference (incongruent-neutral) as Stroop performance. Though activation for Stroop interference was found in the bilateral prefrontal area before the acute bout of exercise, activation of the right frontopolar area (R-FPA) was enhanced after exercise. In the majority of participants, this coincided with improved performance reflected in Stroop interference results. Thus, an acute bout of moderate exercise improved Stroop performance in older adults, and this was associated with contralateral compensatory activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hemodynamics / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared / methods