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Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Science




Heath, Matthew


A single bout of aerobic exercise improves executive function (EF). A candidate mechanism for this benefit is an exercise-mediated increase in cerebral blood flow (CBF). It is, however, unknown whether an asymptotic or oscillatory CBF increase associated with moderate continuous aerobic (MCE) and repetitive squat-stand exercise (SSE), respectively, differentially impacts a postexercise EF benefit. Participants (n=22) completed 15-min sessions of MCE and SSE and a non-exercise control condition. EF was assessed pre- and postexercise via pro- and antisaccade trials and CBF was estimated via a transcranial Doppler ultrasound measure of middle cerebral artery velocity (MCAv). As expected, MCE and SSE produced a respective asymptotic increase and oscillatory change in MCAv, and null hypothesis and equivalence tests indicated that both conditions produced a comparable magnitude postexercise EF benefit. Accordingly, an oscillatory CBF response to exercise does not impart a larger EF benefit than a time- and intensity-matched MCE protocol.

Summary for Lay Audience

Executive function represents a set of cognitive processes essential to activities of daily living. A single bout of treadmill running or cycling provides a ‘boost’ to executive function – a phenomenon that has been linked to a continuous exercise-induced increase in blood flow to the brain. Interestingly, continuous body-weight squat-stand exercise has been shown to increase and decrease brain blood flow as squat and stand movements are performed, respectively. Moreover, some work has proposed that this directional (i.e., oscillatory) change in blood flow may boost a postexercise EF benefit. Notably, however, such a prediction has not yet been directly evaluated. Accordingly, I had participants perform an executive function task before and after time- and intensity-matched bouts of traditional exercise (via cycle ergometer) and squat-stand exercise, as well as a non-exercise control condition. As expected, squat-stand exercise produced an oscillation in brain blood flow, whereas traditional exercise produced a continuous and sustained increase in brain blood flow. Notably, both exercise conditions produced a ‘boost’ to executive function, and I was able to demonstrate that this benefit was equivalent between both exercise conditions. Accordingly, my results provide first evidence that squat-stand exercise ‘boosts’ executive function; however, the distinct brain blood flow response to this and traditional exercise does not impact the magnitude of an executive function benefit.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

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