Aerobic exercise enhances neural correlates of motor skill learning
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INTRODUCTION: Repetitive, in-phase bimanual motor training tasks can expand the excitable cortical area of the trained muscles. Recent evidence suggests that an acute bout of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise can enhance the induction of rapid motor plasticity at the motor hotspot. However, these changes have not been investigated throughout the entire cortical representation. Furthermore, it is unclear how exercise-induced changes in excitability may relate to motor performance. We investigated whether aerobic exercise could enhance the neural correlates of motor learning. We hypothesized that the combination of exercise and training would increase the excitable cortical area to a greater extent than either exercise or training alone, and that the addition of exercise would enhance performance on a motor training task. METHODS: 25 young, healthy, right-handed individuals were recruited and divided into two groups and three experimental conditions. The exercise group performed exercise alone (EX) and exercise followed by training (EXTR) while the training group performed training alone (TR). RESULTS: The combination of exercise and training increased excitability within the cortical map of the trained muscle to a greater extent than training alone. However, there was no difference in performance between the two groups. These results indicate that exercise may enhance the cortical adaptations to motor skill learning.
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