A single bout of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise affects reactive, but not proactive cognitive brain functions

Siby Cherakathil Chacko, Federico Quinzi, Antonio De Fano, Valentina Bianco, Elena Mussini, Marika Berchicci, Rinaldo Livio Perri, Francesco Di Russo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The literature on aerobic exercise and neurocognition reports acute post-exercise enhancement of neural activity linked to motor preparation in the premotor area and inhibitory control in the frontoparietal areas. However, the acute effect of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise (VIAE) on the prefrontal, the insular, and the occipito-parietal activities linked to proactive control, early perceptual, and attentional processing is indeterminate. Thus, the present study investigated the acute effect of VIAE on the neurobehavioral correlates of these proactive and reactive neurocognitive functions. Young, healthy subjects participated in two separate experimental sessions: 30 min of VIAE and 30 min of internet browsing. Before and immediately after the two sessions, we recorded high-resolution electroencephalograms while performing a visuomotor discriminative response task. For testing the effect of VIAE on cognitive processing, we analyzed the behavioral performance and event-related potentials (ERPs). The analysis of behavioral data did not reveal any VIAE effect on task performance. The analysis of ERPs showed no significant VIAE effect on the proactive functions in the premotor and the prefrontal areas, but significant effects on the reactive functions related to selective attention in parietal areas (indexed by the N1 amplitude) and perceptual awareness in the anterior insula (indexed by the pN1 latency). We concluded that a single bout of VIAE does not affect the proactive functions in the premotor and the prefrontal areas, but modulates the early reactive neural mechanisms underlying perceptual awareness of stimuli in the insular cortex and selective attention in the parieto-occipital areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-243
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Dec 16 2019



  • Bereitschaftspotential
  • Brain preparation
  • Cognitive functions
  • EEG
  • ERP
  • Exercise
  • Prefrontal negativity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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