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Blink! The link between aerobic fitness and c

image: We found that spontaneous eye blink rate significantly mediated the association between better aerobic capacity and better cognitive function. β indicates the standardized regression coefficient, which represents the degree of association between variables.
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Credit: University of Tsukuba

Tsukuba, Japan – Although exercise is known to improve cognitive function and mental health, the neurological mechanisms for this link are unknown. Today, Japanese researchers have found evidence of the missing link between aerobic capacity and cognitive function.

In a study published in Medicine and science in sport and exercise, researchers at the University of Tsukuba found that spontaneous eye blink rate (sEBR), which reflects the activity of the dopaminergic system, could be used to understand the link between cognitive function and aerobic capacity.

The dopaminergic system is known to be involved in physical activity and exercise, and previous researchers have proposed that exercise-induced changes in cognitive function may be mediated by the activity of the dopaminergic system. However, a marker of activity in this system was needed to test this hypothesis, which researchers at the University of Tsukuba aimed to resolve.

“The dopaminergic system is associated with both executive function and motivated behavior, including physical activity,” says study lead author Ryuta Kuwamizu. “We used sEBR as a non-invasive measure of dopaminergic system function to test whether it could be the missing link between aerobic capacity and cognitive function.”

To do this, the researchers asked healthy participants to undergo an sEBR measurement, a cognitive function test, and an aerobic fitness test. They also measured brain activity during cognitive task using functional near infrared spectroscopy.

“As expected, we found significant correlations between aerobic capacity, cognitive function and sEBR,” says lead author Professor Hideaki Soya. “When we examined these relationships in more detail, we found that the link between improved aerobic capacity and improved cognitive function was in part mediated by dopaminergic regulation.”

In addition, activity in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (l-DLPFC) during cognitive task was the same or lower in participants with higher sEBR compared to lower sEBR, even though those with higher sEBR seemed to have greater executive function, and therefore more neurons. Efficiency.

“Although previous studies have indicated that aerobic fitness and cognitive function are correlated, it is the first to provide a neuromodulatory basis for this connection in humans. Our data indicate that dopamine plays a critical role in the link between aerobic fitness and cognition, “says the first author. Kuwamizu.

Since neural efficiency in l-DLPFC is a known feature of the dopaminergic system that has been observed in people with higher physical fitness and executive function, it is possible that neural efficiency in this region partially mediates the association between aerobic fitness and executive function. In addition, physical inactivity may be linked to dopaminergic dysfunction. This information provides new directions for research into how fitness affects the brain, which may lead to improved exercise regimes. For example, exercise that focuses specifically on improving dopaminergic function can particularly boost motivation, mood, and mental function.


The article, “Spontaneous Eye Blink Rate Connects Missing Link between Aerobic Fitness and Cognition”, was published in Medicine and science in sport and exercise
(DOI: 10.1249 / MSS.0000000000002590).

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