Gilbert Acosta, who recently defended his MS thesis, has been studying the effects of exercise on the brain in the laboratory of Dr. Stefan Keslacy. He talked about their research which suggests a short bout of light exercise improves cognition even in people who do not regularly exercise.
What is the research you're doing?
We are looking at the beneficial effects of exercise on the brain. In particular we want to determine how fitness levels may play a role in cognitive performance.
What will we learn about exercise from this research?
We will learn how exercise can alter the flow of blood in the brain and if these changes are responsible for improvements in cognitive performance.
How many subjects were studied, who were they and what did they do?
We had 51 subjects from CSULA which included students, and individuals from various sport teams on campus (soccer, volleyball, track and field). All subjects came in for three visits, which consisted of a cognitive testing prior to and immediately following exercise at either a light intensity or moderate intensity.
What was the main finding?
One major finding from this study is Athletes had higher blood flow in their brain compared to sedentary individuals. Another major finding was improvements in cognitive performance was intensity dependent, with Sedentary individuals improving following light intensity exercise while Athletes improved only following Moderate exercise.
What is Doppler Ultrasound?
We used Transcranial Doppler Ultrasound (TCD), which is similar to ultrasounds used to monitor fetal development during pregnancy. Doppler Ultrasound is non-invasive and allows for the monitoring of blood flow in the brain during various conditions such as exercise.
What are you planning to do next?
We want to continue to understand the mechanisms responsible for increasing brain fitness. We are set to look at mechanisms such as oxygenation in the brain and electrical activity in the brain. We are looking at exercise but we are also looking at challenging our brain while exercise such as using virtual reality to cause greater changes in oxygen in the brain. We will also be looking at electrical activity in the brain while performing cognitive testing during exercise.