Effects of Exercise Modes on Neural Processing of Working Memory in Late Middle-Aged Adults: An fMRI Study

Feng Tzu Chen, Ya Ping Chen, Stefan Schneider, Shih Chun Kao, Chih Mao Huang, Yu Kai Chang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies have highlighted the importance of regular exercise on cognitive function in aging populations, with aerobic exercise and cardiovascular fitness having received the largest amount of research attention. However, the relationship between exercise mode and cognitive function underlying behavioral modification and neural activation remains unknown. The present study, therefore, sought to examine the associations between different exercise modes and the working memory (WM) aspect of executive function as well as its task-evoked brain activation in the late middle-aged population. Seventy late middle-aged adults were classified into open-skill, closed-skill, or irregular exercise groups based on their participation in exercise activities prior to the study and then performed a spatial working memory (SWM) task while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning. The results revealed that exercise groups, regardless of exercise modes, showed better SWM and physical fitness performance. Additionally, the open-skill group exhibited greater brain activation in the prefrontal lobe, anterior cingulate cortex/supplementary motor area (ACC/SMA), and hippocampus than those in the closed-skill group, suggesting a mode-sensitive compensatory mechanism in late middle-aged adults. These findings indicate that exercise promotes cognitive health, improves WM, and enhances neurocognitive scaffolding in late middle-aged adults and further suggest that various exercise modes can effectively modulate frontal and hippocampal function in the face of age-related neurocognitive declines, implications that may inform the development of exercise programs for the elderly.

Original languageEnglish
Article number224
JournalFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Sept 4


  • aging
  • closed-skill exercise
  • cognition
  • executive control
  • open-skill exercise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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