Health Promot Perspect. 2019;9(2): 143-149.
doi: 10.15171/hpp.2019.20
PMID: 31249802
PMCID: PMC6588806
Scopus ID: 85066844642
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Original Article

The effects of acute exercise intensity on episodic and false memory among young adult college students

Emma K. Dilley 1, Liye Zou 2, Paul D. Loprinzi 1*

1 Exercise & Memory Laboratory, Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management, The University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677, USA
2 Lifestyle (Mind-Body Movement) Research Center, College of Sport Science, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen 518060, China


Background: Previous experimental work demonstrates that acute exercise may enhance episodic memory performance. However, limited research has examined the extent to which acute exercise influences false episodic memory production, and no studies, to date, have examined whether there is an intensity-specific effect of acute exercise on both true episodic and false episodic memories. Thus, the present experiment evaluated the effects of intensity-specific acute exercise on episodic memory and false episodic memory. Methods: A three-arm, parallel, between-group randomized controlled trial was employed in the University setting, with participants (N=60; Mage= 20.8 years) randomized into a moderate intensity exercise group (15-minute bout of treadmill exercise at 50% heart rate reserve), a high intensity exercise group (15-minute bout of treadmill exercise at 80% heart rate reserve), or a control group (time-matched period of sitting). True episodic and false episodic memory were both assessed using 6 word-lists from the Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm, including both a short-term recall and a delayed memory recognition assessment. Results: For the number of words recalled across each of the 6 lists, there was a significant main effect for list (P<0.001, η2p=0.15), marginally significant main effect for group (P=0.07, η2p=0.09), but no list by group interaction effect (P=0.44, η2p=0.03). Those in the high-intensity exercise group recalled significantly (P<0.05) more words than the control group. For the false episodic word recall, across various lists, high-intensity acute exercise was associated with a greater rate of false episodic memories. For the memory recognition task, there was no main effect for word type (P=0.46, η2p=0.01), group (P=0.4443, η2p=.03), word type by group interaction (P=0.44,η2p=0.03), recall by group interaction (P=0.4441, η2p=0.04), or word type by recall by group interaction (P=0.32, η2p=0.04). However, there was a main effect for recall (P<0.001, η2p=.54)and a word type by recall interaction (P<0.001, η2p=0.77).Conclusion: These findings suggest that acute high-intensity exercise may enhance true episodic memories, and, possibly, also increase the rate of false episodic memories. We discuss these findings in the context of how different acute exercise intensities may have unique and differential effects on underlying mechanistic processes related to true and false episodic memory.
Keywords: Aerobic exercise, Cognition, Fuzzy trace theory, Hippocampus, Memory distortion, Prefrontal cortex, Recognition, Recollection, Short-term memory
Citation: Dilley EK, Zou L, Loprinzi PD. The effects of acute exercise intensity on episodic and false memory among young adult college students. Health Promot Perspect. 2019;9(2):143-149. doi: 10.15171/hpp.2019.20.
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Submitted: 28 Feb 2019
Revision: 23 Mar 2019
Accepted: 09 Mar 2019
ePublished: 25 May 2019
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