Mohammad Ali Salehinejad, Michael A. Nitsche

Cognition-Engaging Physical Exercises. A Framework for Improving Executive Functions

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Physical Exercises, Cognition-Engaging Physical Exercises, Executive Functions, Children, Aging, Prefrontal Cortex.

Recent studies suggest physical exercise as a new method for enhancing cognition. Although enhancing effects of physical exercise on cognition are documented, however not all types of physical exercises are beneficial to cognition. While some types of physical activity have an impact on basic components of cognition which are both relevant for motor and cognitive performance, others with specific parameters have a better impact on specific types of cognition. Physical exercise with specific parameters that are cognitively-engaging has efficient impact on cognitive functions, especially executive functions (EFs). Here we propose the Cognition Engaging Physical Exercises (CEPE) training schedule as a framework for purposefully and selectively enhancing cognition, specifically EFs. CEPE prepares the brain to respond to cognitive demands by potentiating the neuroplastic capacity of the brain (through physical activity), and at the same time provides cognitive stimulation/training by simulating cognitive processes underlying EFs. Additionally, it is in accordance with the notion that cognition is body-based (e.g., embodied cognition). CEPE is expected to enhance EFs more efficiently than pure physical exercises by (a) benefiting from global enhancing effects of physical activation on cognition and supramodal EFs, (b) targeting specific neuroplasticity networks for each EFs and (c) activating sensorimotor representations of each EF domain through movement in the environment (i.e., embodiment. Children and old people are expected to benefit more from the CEPE, probably due to a greater capacity for neuroplasticity in childhood and age-dependent cognitive decline in aging. Clinical implications are specifically expected in populations with executive dysfunctions.

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