Exercise, Emotion, and Executive Control
Abstract: Both acute and habitual exercise are consistently associated with a
number of benefits to physical and mental health, including cardiovascular function, body
weight, mood, and cognition. For instance, habitual exercise improves mood, such as
depressive symptoms in individuals with major depressive disorders, and acute exercise
elevates emotion during and after exercise, particularly ... read morein physically fit individuals.
Both habitual and acute exercise may also influence domain general cognitive control, such
as response inhibition and selective attention, and domain specific cognitive control, such
as the cognitive control of emotion. The present series of three experiments evaluated how
both habitual and acute exercise relate to mood, emotion, domain general cognitive control,
and the cognitive control of emotion, specifically cognitive reappraisal success. The first
experiment employed a cross-sectional design and found that habitual exercise predicted
lower depression and anxiety and enhanced domain general cognitive control and cognitive
reappraisal success. The second experiment utilized near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to
track time-dependent changes in oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin (O2Hb and dHb)
levels in the PFC as a function of parametrically manipulated target exercise intensity
during relatively short bouts of acute exercise, i.e. 30 minutes cycling. NIRS is an ideal
method to measure changes in O2Hb and dHb levels in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) to better
understand the locus of exercise-related changes in emotion and cognitive processes. O2Hb
and dHb levels in the PFC, as well as positive emotion, increased as a function of both
exercise intensity and duration. The third experiment elongated the exercise duration to a
90 minute run, and found that such endurance exercise elevated positive emotion. The run
reduced PFC oxygenation, but did not influence domain general cognitive control or the
cognitive control of emotion. In sum, the present experiments suggest that habitual
exercise predicts enhanced mood, cognitive control, and the cognitive control of emotion,
and whereas acute exercise appears to enhance emotion regardless of the duration, future
research is necessary to pinpoint the intensity at which exercise influences domain general
cognitive control and the cognitive control of emotion.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2016.
Submitted to the Dept. of Psychology.
Advisor: Robin Kanarek.
Committee: Tad Brunyé, Marianna Eddy, and Heather Urry.
Keyword: Psychology.read less