From Space To School: Neurophysiological Relation Of Physical Exercise And Cognitive Performance In Field

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Following developmental changes in the last century, requirements concerning living and working conditions have substantially changed, with a gain of free leisure time but also the absence of physical labor. Subsequently, a large and manifold community of persons, actively engaged in sports, has grown. Today, at the heart of this movement lies the interest to develop and maintain health, primary under a preventive aspect. However, health is no longer reduced to physical health alone, but as proofed by studies from the past two decades, sports and exercise also have a positive effect on cognitive performance and emotional well-being. In recent years, an interest to investigate further in the neurophysiological changes provoked by sports and exercise and their relationship to observed behavioral, cognitive and emotional parameters has evolved. Previous research was often limited to the artificial laboratory situation. Due to the technological development, and in particular the development of modern methods for the detection and analysis of central nervous parameters, it is now possible to illustrate cortical changes provoked by sports and exercise also "in the field" i.e. in the immediate real-life situation and thus specify recommendations regarding the application of sports and exercise to preserve cognitive functions and emotional well-being. Chapter I introduces the five studies and topics underlying this cumulative doctoral thesis. The first study in Chapter II deals with the question how an active break in the office can maintain cognitive performance. The results show that both high-intensity exercise (boxing) and moderate exercise (cycling) are associated with special cortical activation patterns (transient hypofrontality), which is reflected in an increase in cognitive performance after the work break. Chapter III addresses the issue of central nervous fatigue during a 6-hour Ultramarathon. While there is an initial decrease in fronto-temporal activity, which, interestingly, correlates with the personal feeling of a flow condition, the data for the next five hours show no cortical fatigue nor decrease in cognitive performance during such prolonged endurance exercise. The following study in an elementary school in Chapter IV proves for the first time a central decrease in cortical activity after a school sports lesson. These changes are being discussed with respect to improving attentiveness and concentration and underline the relaxing effect of sport, but also other minor subjects such as music and art, on learning processes in the school setting. Chapters V-VII comprehensively address the impact of weightlessness on neuro-cognitive processes. The data collected in several DLR and ESA parabolic flights impressively demonstrate a positive effect of weightlessness on cognitive performance and its underlying neural parameters (ERP analysis). These effects cannot be explained by a shift in blood volume into the cortex, as is often assumed. For the first time, these studies show that there is an urgent need to differentiate between primary effects of weightlessness and secondary effects of stress and isolation on cognition and emotion during future long-term missions. In particular, this will have relevance in planning and scheduling exercise units to maintain mental performance during long-term missions. Chapter VIII summarizes the questions and approaches raised in the introduction to an overall picture and demonstrates the relevance of modern neuroscience research. While for many years the effects of sport and exercise on cognition and emotion were only indirectly reproducible, the work of this cumulative doctoral thesis in various real-live settings, provides an insight into the neurophysiological changes and their relation provoked by sport and exercise or extreme environmental conditions to cognitive and emotional parameters.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationKöln
PublisherDeutsche Sporthochschule Köln
Number of pages79
Publication statusPublished - 2019

ID: 4473871


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