Motor behavior-induced prefrontal cortex activation and episodic memory function


Background: The objective of this paper was to evaluate the potential individual and combined effects of acute exercise coupled with bilateral interhemispheric activation on episodic memory function. Six experiments were conducted. Methods: Experiment 1 was a within-subject, counterbalanced experiment. Participants completed four visits, including 1) exercise and saccadic eye movements, 2) exercise only, 3) saccadic eye movements only, and 4) no exercise and no saccadic eye movements (control). A word-list memory assessment was employed, including a long-term (20-min delay) memory evaluation. In Experiment 2, we evaluated the effects of saccadic eye movements on prefrontal cortex oxygenation, a proxy for neuronal activity. Similarly, in our third experiment, we evaluated the effects of acute exercise on prefrontal cortex oxygenation. Thus, experiments 2 and 3 were employed to provide mechanistic insights from the results shown in experiment 1. Experiment 4 replicated Experiment 1, but instead of increasing prefrontal cortex activation via saccadic eye movements, we used a fist clenching protocol. Experiment 5 evaluated the effects of fist clenching on prefrontal cortex oxygenation. Results: Collectively, these 5 experimental studies showed that acute exercise (Experiment 1), saccadic eye movements (Experiment 1), and fist clenching (Experiment 4) enhanced memory function, and that acute exercise (Experiment 3), saccadic eye movements (Experiment 2) and fist clenching (Experiment 5) all increased prefrontal cortex oxygenation. Experiment 6 demonstrated that prefrontal cortex oxygenation was positively associated with episodic memory function. Conclusion: These six experiments suggest that several behaviors, such as acute exercise, saccadic eye movements and fist clenching may improve memory function and may, potentially, do so via increases in prefrontal cortex oxygenation.

International Journal of Neuroscience