Impact of Acute High-intensity Interval Training on Cortical Excitability, M1-related Cognitive Functions, and Myokines: A Randomized Crossover Study

Neuroscience. 2024 Jul 23:551:290-298. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2024.05.032. Epub 2024 Jun 6.


High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a time-efficient, safe, and feasible exercise type that can be utilized across different ages and health status. This randomized cross-over study aimed to investigate the effect of acute HIIT on cortical excitability, M1-related cognitive functions, cognition-related myokines, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and Cathepsin B (CTSB). Twenty-three sedentary young adults (mean age: 22.78 years ± 2.87; 14 female) participated in a cross-over design involving two sessions: either 23 min of HIIT or seated rest. Before and after the sessions, cortical excitability was measured using transcranial magnetic stimulation, and M1-related cognitive functions were assessed by the n-back test and mental rotation test. Serum levels of BDNF and CTSB were assessed using the ELISA method before and after the HIIT intervention. We demonstrated that HIIT improved mental rotation and working memory, and increased serum levels of BDNF and CTSB, whereas cortical excitability did not change. Our findings provide evidence that one session of HIIT is effective on M1-related cognitive functions and cognition-related myokines. Future research is warranted to determine whether such findings are transferable to different populations, such as cognitively at-risk children, adults, and older adults, and to prescribe effective exercise programs.

Keywords: BDNF; Cathepsin B; High-intensity interval training; Mental rotation; TMS.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor* / blood
  • Cathepsin B* / blood
  • Cathepsin B* / metabolism
  • Cognition* / physiology
  • Cortical Excitability* / physiology
  • Cross-Over Studies*
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology
  • Female
  • High-Intensity Interval Training* / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Myokines
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*
  • Young Adult


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Cathepsin B
  • BDNF protein, human
  • CTSB protein, human
  • Myokines