Prefrontal cortex haemodynamics and affective responses during exercise: A multi-channel near infrared spectroscopy study


The dose-response effects of the intensity of exercise upon the potential regulation (through top-down processes) of affective (pleasure-displeasure) responses in the prefrontal cortex during an incremental exercise protocol have not been explored. This study examined the functional capacity of the prefrontal cortex (reflected by haemodynamics using near infrared spectroscopy) and affective responses during exercise at different intensities. Participants completed an incremental cycling exercise test to exhaustion. Changes ($Δ$) in oxygenation (O2Hb), deoxygenation (HHb), blood volume (tHb) and haemoglobin difference (HbDiff) were measured from bilateral dorsal and ventral prefrontal areas. Affective responses were measured every minute during exercise. Data were extracted at intensities standardised to: below ventilatory threshold, at ventilatory threshold, respiratory compensation point and the end of exercise. During exercise at intensities from ventilatory threshold to respiratory compensation point, $Δ$O2Hb, $Δ$HbDiff and $Δ$tHb were greater in mostly ventral than dorsal regions. From the respiratory compensation point to the end of exercise, $Δ$O2Hb remained stable and $Δ$HbDiff declined in dorsal regions. As the intensity increased above the ventilatory threshold, inverse associations between affective responses and oxygenation in (a) all regions of the left hemisphere and (b) lateral (dorsal and ventral) regions followed by the midline (ventral) region in the right hemisphere were observed. Differential activation patterns occur within the prefrontal cortex and are associated with affective responses during cycling exercise. © 2014 Tempest et al.