Physical exercise has been suggested to improve cognitive performance through various neurobiological mechanisms, mediated by growth factors such as BDNF, IGF-I, and VEGF. Moreover, animal research has demonstrated that combined physical and cognitive stimulation leads to increased adult neurogenesis as compared to either experimental condition alone. In the present study, we therefore investigated whether a sequential combination of physical and spatial training in young, healthy adults elicits an additive effect on training and transfer gains. To this end, we compared the effects of (i) eight 20-minute sessions of cycling, (ii) sixteen 30-minute sessions of spatial training, (iii) a combination of both, and included (iv) a passive control cohort. We assessed longitudinal changes in cognitive performance, growth factor levels, and T1relaxation of hippocampal subfields (acquired with 7 T MRI). While substantial physical and spatial training gains were elicited in all trained groups, longitudinal transfer changes did not differ between these groups. Notably, we found no evidence for an additive effect of sequential physical and spatial training. These results challenge the extrapolation from the findings reported in animals to young, healthy adults.
- Journal Article