Researchers have revealed that 6 weeks of intense exercise consisting of 20 minute interval training sessions improved high-interference memory significantly. High-interference memory is, as an example, what allows us to tell our car apart from another car of the identical model and make. The healthy young adults who took part in the study experienced increased memory performance over a relatively short time period after the training sessions.
Those participants experiencing greater improvements in fitness had a greater increase in BDNF as well. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein supporting the survival, function and growth of brain cells. These kind of memory improvements from exercise could help to explain the already established aerobic exercise and improvement in academic performance association. As we get older, even more benefits can be expected in people with impaired memory caused by conditions like dementia.
The 95 individuals who participated in the study completed either 6 weeks of exercise training, an exercise with cognitive training combination, and a sedentary control group who did neither. The exercise training and combination training groups both experienced an improvement in high-interference memory task performance, while the sedentary group experienced no improvement. Memory, aerobic fitness and neurotrophic factor changes were measured before the study and after.
The outcome of the study reveals a potential mechanism for how a combination of exercise and cognitive training could be altering the brain to support cognition, which suggests that they work in conjunction through complementary brain pathways for improving high-interference memory. Research has begun to see if older people will have the same results from the exercise and cognitive training combination. One theory is that older people will experience greater benefits since this kind of memory declines as we get older. Neurotrophic factor availability however also declines as we get older and this could mean that the synergistic effects are not experienced. The results could have implications for the aging population that’s struggling with the problem of terrible diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.