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Experimental investigation of the effects of acute exercise on memory interference.

  • Author(s): Wingate, Savanna
  • Crawford, Lindsay
  • Frith, Emily
  • Loprinzi, Paul D
  • et al.

Background: Among other factors, including the decay theory, interfering stimuli (proactive and retroactive interference; PI and RI) may influence the encoding and consolidation of target information. Acute exercise can enhance episodic memory function, but no experiments have evaluated whether exercise can attenuate PI and RI effects on memory, which was the purpose of this experiment. Methods: Twenty young adults were randomized (via computer program) into one of 6 experimental groups (N=120, n=20 per group), including 3 PI (G1, G2, and G3) and 3 RI groups (G4, G5, and G6). Those in G1 and G4 exercised prior to a 10-list AB/AC paradigm with interference; G2 and G5 did not exercise but had interference; and G3 and G6 were the control groups with no exercise and no interference. Results: The mean (95% CI) number of correctly recalled word pairs across the 6 respective groups was 2.4 (1.2-3.5), 2.4 (1.3-3.5), 5.1 (3.9-6.3), 6.9 (5.7-8.0), 5.0 (4.2-5.8), and 6.1 (5.1-6.9) (FANOVA=11.7; P<0.001; η2=0.33). For PI, the control group (group 3) correctly recalled more word pairs (5.1) when compared to the exercise interference group (2.4; group 1) or the non-exercise interference group (2.4; group 2). The difference between group 1 and 3 (2.4 vs.5.1) was significant (P=0.003), as was group 2 vs. 3 (P=0.002). For the RI groups (groups 4-6),group 4 differed from group 5 (6.9 vs. 5.0; P=0.01), but there was no difference between group 4 and group 6 (P=0.25) or group 5 and group 6 (P=0.09). Conclusion: These preliminary findings suggest that acute exercise may be more beneficial for RI compared to PI, but additional experimental work is needed.

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