We have recently shown that a single bout of acute cardiovascular exercise improves motor skill learning through an optimization of long-term motor memory. Here we expand this previous finding, to explore potential exercise-related biomarkers and their association with measures of motor memory and skill acquisition. Thirty-two healthy young male subjects were randomly allocated into either an exercise or control group. Following either an intense bout of cycling or rest subjects practiced a visuomotor tracking task. Motor skill acquisition was assessed during practice and retention 1 h, 24 h and 7 days after practice. Plasma levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine and lactate were analyzed at baseline, immediately after exercise or rest and during motor practice. The exercise group showed significantly better skill retention 24h and 7 days after acquisition. The concentration of all blood compounds increased significantly immediately after exercise and remained significantly elevated for 15 min following exercise except for BDNF and VEGF. Higher concentrations of norepinephrine and lactate immediately after exercise were associated with better acquisition. Higher concentrations of BDNF correlated with better retention 1 h and 7 days after practice. Similarly, higher concentrations of norepinephrine were associated with better retention 7 days after practice whereas lactate correlated with better retention 1h as well as 24 h and 7 days after practice. Thus, improvements in motor skill acquisition and retention induced by acute cardiovascular exercise are associated with increased concentrations of biomarkers involved in memory and learning processes. More mechanistic studies are required to elucidate the specific role of each biomarker in the formation of motor memory.
Keywords: BDNF; Biomarkers; Exercise; Lactate; Motor learning; Norepinephrine.
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