Acute exercise has a general facilitative effect on cognitive function: A combined ERP temporal dynamics and BDNF study

Yu Kai Chang*, Brandon L. Alderman, Chien Heng Chu, Chun Chih Wang, Tai Fen Song, Feng Tzu Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined whether acute moderate intensity exercise results in a general or selective improvement in cognitive function. In addition, multiple stimulus-locked ERP components and serum BDNF levels were assessed to investigate potential neurobiological mechanisms underlying acute exercise effects on select aspects of cognitive performance. Thirty young adults were recruited and participated in exercise and reading control sessions in a counterbalanced order. Following treatments, the Stroop task was administrated, and N1, N2, P3, and N450 components of the ERP waveform were recorded and analyzed. Additionally, blood samples were withdrawn immediately following exercise or rest conditions prior to administration of the Stroop task. Acute exercise facilitated response times for both Stroop congruent and incongruent task conditions, with a similar magnitude of improvement. Larger P3 and reduced N450 amplitudes as well as decreased N450 latency were observed following exercise, but no effects on N1 and N2 components were found. This dose of exercise also did not influence serum BDNF levels. These findings suggest that moderate intensity acute exercise results in a generalized rather than selective improvement in cognition. The facilitation may be related to an increase in attentional or neural resource allocation and conflict detection processes reflected by longer latency endogenous components (P3, N450), but is not influenced by earlier sensory and monitoring processes revealed by earlier ERP components or by serum levels of BDNF.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-300
Number of pages12
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Feb 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute exercise
  • BDNF
  • ERP
  • Executive function
  • N450
  • P3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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