Brain activation during executive control after acute exercise in older adults

Junyeon Won, Alfonso J. Alfini, Lauren R. Weiss, Daniel D. Callow, J. Carson Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Previous work has shown that aerobic exercise training is associated with regional changes in functional activation and improved behavioral outcomes during the Flanker task. However, it is unknown whether acute aerobic exercise has comparable effects on brain activation during the Flanker task. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of an acute bout of moderate-intensity bicycle exercise on Flanker task functional activation and behavioral performance in older adults. Thirty-two healthy older adults (66.2 ± 7.3 years) performed two experimental visits that included 30-min of aerobic exercise and a rest condition on separate days. After each condition, participants performed the Flanker task during an fMRI scan. Significantly greater functional activation (incongruent > congruent) was found in the left inferior frontal gyrus and inferior parietal lobule after exercise compared to rest. A main effect of exercise was also observed on Flanker task performance with greater accuracy in both incongruent and congruent trials, suggesting the effects of acute exercise on Flanker performance are general across Flanker trial types. Conversely, greater executive control-related functional activations after performing a single session of exercise suggests enhanced functional processing while engaging in task conditions requiring disproportionately greater amounts of executive control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-248
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Acute exercise
  • Aging
  • Brain health
  • Executive control
  • Flanker task
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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