Self-selected versus imposed running intensity and the acute effects on mood, cognition, and (a)periodic brain activity

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The beneficial psychological effects of exercise might be explained by self-determination theory and autonomy. However, the underlying neurophysiological mechanisms are even less elucidated. Previously neglected, aperiodic (1/f) brain activity is suggested to indicate enhanced cortical inhibition when the slope is steeper. This is thought to be associated with an increased cognitive performance. Therefore, we hypothesize that running with a self-selected intensity and thus given autonomy leads to stronger neural inhibition accompanied by psychological improvements. Twenty-nine runners performed two 30-min runs. First, they chose their individual feel-good intensity (self-selected run; SR). After a 4-weeks washout, the same speed was blindly prescribed (imposed run; IR). Acute effects on mood (Feeling Scale, Felt Arousal Scale, MoodMeter®), cognition (d2-R, digit span test) and electrocortical activity (slope, offset, 1/f-corrected alpha and low beta band) were analyzed before and after the runs. Both runs had an equal physical workload and improved mood in the Felt Arousal Scale, but not in the Feeling Scale or MoodMeter®. Cognitive performance improved after both runs in the d2-R, while it remained stable in the digit span test after SR, but decreased after IR. After running, the aperiodic slope was steeper, and the offset was reduced. Alpha activity increased after SR only, while low beta activity decreased after both conditions. The aperiodic features partially correlated with mood and cognition. SR was not clearly superior regarding psychological effects. Reduced aperiodic brain activity indicates enhanced neural inhibition after both runs. The 1/f-corrected alpha band may emphasize a different neural processing between both runs.
Translated title of the contributionSelbstbestimmte versus fremdbestimmte Laufintensität und die akuten Auswirkungen auf Stimmung, Kognition und (a)periodische Gehirnaktivität
Original languageEnglish
JournalCognitive Neurodynamics
Publication statusPublished - 01.03.2024