Synergistic benefits of combined physical exercise and cognitive training on memory

Ilana B Clark, Jennifer J Heisz

Abstract


There is an established link between exercise, neurogenesis, and cognition. Most of this research has focused on non-human animal models, with little known about the effects of exercise on cognition in younger adults. Both physical exercise and cognitive training independently induce hippocampal neurogenesis in animals, suggesting that these different forms of training may work through synergistic neurological pathways to benefit memory in younger adults. The present study examined the effects of physical exercise and cognitive training on hippocampal-mediated memory processes in younger adults, with particular interest in whether combining training yields synergistic benefits for memory. Forty-eight sedentary young adults were randomly assigned to one of four groups: 1) exercise training group, 2) cognitive training group, 3) combined exercise and cognitive training group, or 4) control group. Memory performance was assessed before and after the intervention on a task associated with hippocampal neurogenesis, the Pattern Separation task. Preliminary results reveal that exercise and cognitive training were both associated with improved memory performance compared to the control group. Critically, combining exercise and cognitive training led to the greatest change in performance, suggesting additive benefits of combined training on hippocampal function. The results demonstrate that different lifestyle activities can interact to improve memory.

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