Does exercise improve cognitive abilities? An inquiry into inhibitory control and its relation to physical exercise and EEG theta waves.
Zon, Justin van
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Objective: Physical exercise is shown to increase cognitive control. However, only few studies consider the underlying cognitive mechanism that defines this relation. The aim of the present study is to a correlational design to determine the connections between inhibitory control, physical exercise and theta power using a correlational design. Furthermore, the secondary aim of the study is to compare theta power in successful and unsuccessful inhibitions. Participants and methods: Using a counterbalanced and multi-method research design, 30 healthy adults (67% female, mean age = 25 years) completed an EEG measurement while conducting a stop- signal task (SST). Before the experiment, participants filled in the International Physical Assessment Questionnaire (IPAQ), measuring the self-reported weekly time of vigorous and moderate physical activity. A correlational analysis was conducted to establish the relationships between average theta power in successful and in unsuccessful stops, physical exercise levels, and SSRT, both in visual and auditory conditions. A repeated measures ANOVA was conducted to determine the difference in theta power in successful and failed inhibitions. Results: No significant correlations were found theta power and SSRT (r = -0.242, p = 0.189), vigorous and moderate exercise and SSRT (r = -0.131, p = 0.484), or theta power and vigorous and moderate exercise (r = 0.227, p = 0.220). The findings from the repeated measures ANOVA suggested that theta power values differed significantly across successful and failed inhibitions, indicating that stop outcome significantly affected the amount of theta power in the brain (F(1, 30) = 6.400, p = 0.017). Conclusion: The findings suggest that theta power is a significant predictor for inhibitory control. Therefore, the results provide a valuable window into the intricate interplay between neural oscillations, physical exercise, and cognitive control. As no significant correlations are found, future research is encouraged to further investigate the relationships.