Colcombe Article Summary Paper

Colcombe et al. (2004) Article Summary Many different research experiments have been aimed to study the effects of exercise on the brain. While a majority of the experiments have involved animals rather than humans, the article “Cardiovascular fitness, cortical plasticity, and aging” by Colcombe et al. (2004) discusses two studies that involve exercise and brain wave measurements. Colcombe et al. (2004) inform that previous studies have found that aerobic exercise training results in a more efficient, plastic, adaptive brain; the greatest changes are seen in prefrontal and parietal cortices.

It is hypothesized that experiment results will prove sedentary subject’s brains become more plastic with cardiovascular fitness training compared to a control group, and older adults who are highly fit will show higher amounts of brain function in fMRI scans (Colcombe et al. , 2004). Methods/Procedures There were two different studies performed in this experiment. The first study included 41 older participants. Each participant completed a Rockport 1-mile walk test so that his or her VO¬2 could be estimated. Fifteen of the 41 participants also completed another treadmill VO2 test to compare to the Rockport 1-mile VO2 estimates.

This comparison helped assure that VO2 estimates were valid. During a separate session, participants were asked to perform a flanker test, responding to certain arrow directions. Reaction time was recorded for only correct and incorrect responses for later analysis. While performing this task, subject’s brain scans were being recorded via fMRI for analysis. (Colcombe et al. , 2004). The second study used 29 new participants whose ages were between 58 and 77 years old. These patients were split into two exercise groups.

One group participated in aerobic exercise, while the other control group focused on stretching and toning. Each group exercised for about 45 minutes three times a week for six months. To test brain function, each subject performed the same flanker test as in study one. This test and fMRI results were completed one week before beginning the exercise and one week after a six month exercise period. Each participant also completed a graded exercise test in order for researchers to determine VO2 uptake. The VO2 estimate helped determine the fitness level of each patient. (Colcombe et al. , 2004). Results

For both fit and unfit participants in the first study, error rates were low. However, the data suggested that those participants who were highly fit provided better results when the arrow cues were going in different directions (adding difficulty). In analyzing the fMRI results that were taken during the flanker test, researchers found that the highly fit individuals had higher brain activity in certain task-related areas. (Colcombe et al. , 2004). As for the second study, cardiovascular fitness in the aerobic exercise group was increased by a significant amount after the six month training period.

There was no significant changes to the control groups fitness level after six months. Compared to the initial flanker test, the aerobic exercise group improved their results by 11%, while the stretching and toning control group only improved by 2%. In comparing fMRI results from before and after the six month period, the aerobic exercise group showed an increase in brain activity during the flanker test. (Colcombe et al. , 2004). Discussion Colcombe et al. ’s (2004) study results allowed researchers to conclude that higher levels of cardiovascular fitness led to increased performance rates on the flanker tests.

Additionally, in viewing fMRI results, increased brain activity was seen in areas associated with task completion. Although some suggestions were posed, it is unknown for sure how exercise actually increases brain function. This study will hopefully provide some insight into understanding the reasoning for increased brain function and higher fitness levels. (Colcombe et al. , 2004). ? References Colcombe, S. J. , Kramer, A. F. , Erickson, K. I. , Scalf, P. , McAuley, E. , Cohen, N. J. , … Elavsky, S. (2004). Cardiovascular fitness, cortical plasticity, and aging. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101(9), 3316-3321.

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