Frontal alpha asymmetry and aerobic exercise: are changes due to cardiovascular demand or bilateral rhythmic movement?
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The left and right prefrontal cortices are linked to networks that control approach and withdrawal motivation, respectively. The relationship between activity in the left and right prefrontal activity is used to assess brain states and specifically their link to motivational behaviours and tendencies. The most common measure used in this context is called the frontal alpha asymmetry (FAA), which compares alpha (8-13Hz) power at each region. Interestingly, research shows that FAA is influenced by aerobic exercise by increasing relative left prefrontal cortex activity. In turn this effect may be beneficial for individuals with mood disorders that are associated with abnormal motivational tendencies. However, it is unknown whether changes in FAA after exercise are due to cardiovascular demands of activity or simply the movement required for the exercise. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the influence of aerobic exercise and 'no intensity' bilateral movement cycling on FAA in young healthy adults. Results showed aerobic exercise caused a significant increase in FAA scores 22-38min after exercise. However, movement did not lead to a significant change in FAA. This suggests there is an intensity required for physical activity to evoke a change in FAA.
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