Executive-related oculomotor control is improved following a 10-min single-bout of aerobic exercise: Evidence from the antisaccade task

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Previous work has shown that a single-bout of moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise improves task-specific activity within frontoparietal networks and produces a short-term ‘boost’ to executive-related cognitive control – an effect in healthy young adults that is reported to be selective to exercise durations of 20 min or greater. The present study sought to determine whether such a ‘boost’ extends to an exercise duration as brief as 10 min. Healthy young adults performed a 10-min single-bout of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic exercise (i.e., via a cycle ergometer) and pre- and post-exercise executive control was examined via the antisaccade task. Antisaccades are an executive task requiring a goal-directed eye movement (i.e., a saccade) mirror-symmetrical to a visual stimulus. The hands- and language-free nature of antisaccades coupled with the temporal precision of eye-tracking technology make it an ideal tool for identifying executive performance changes. Moreover, an extensive literature has shown that antisaccades are mediated via frontoparietal networks that are modulated following single-bout and chronic exercise training. Results showed that antisaccade reaction time (RT) reliably decreased by 27 ms from pre- to post-exercise assessments. Further, the percentage of antisaccade directional errors did not reliably vary from the pre- (13%) to post-exercise (9%) assessments – a result indicating that the RT improvement was unrelated to a speed-accuracy trade-off. A follow-up experiment involving antisaccade sessions separated by a non-exercise interval did not show a similar RT modulation. Thus, a 10-min bout of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic exercise benefits executive-related oculomotor control, and is a finding we attribute to an exercise-based increase in attention/arousal and/or improved task-specific activity within the frontoparietal networks supporting antisaccades.HIGHLIGHTSAntisaccades provide a metric for executive control.Antisaccade reaction times decreased following 10-min of aerobic exercise.Executive oculomotor networks show enhanced processing after aerobic exercise.Antisaccades demonstrate subtle executive-related aerobic exercise effects.

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