European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 117, Issue 10, pp 2029–2038 | Cite as

Executive function after exhaustive exercise

  • Mizuki Sudo
  • Takaaki Komiyama
  • Ryo Aoyagi
  • Toshiya Nagamatsu
  • Yasuki Higaki
  • Soichi AndoEmail author
Original Article



Findings concerning the effects of exhaustive exercise on cognitive function are somewhat equivocal. The purpose of this study was to identify physiological factors that determine executive function after exhaustive exercise.


Thirty-two participants completed the cognitive tasks before and after an incremental exercise until exhaustion (exercise group: N = 18) or resting period (control group N = 14). The cognitive task was a combination of a Spatial Delayed-Response (Spatial DR) task and a Go/No-Go task, which requires executive function. Cerebral oxygenation and skin blood flow were monitored during the cognitive task over the prefrontal cortex. Venous blood samples were collected before and after the exercise or resting period, and blood catecholamines, serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor, insulin-like growth hormone factor 1, and blood lactate concentrations were analyzed.


In the exercise group, exhaustive exercise did not alter reaction time (RT) in the Go/No-Go task (pre: 861 ± 299 ms vs. post: 775 ± 168 ms) and the number of error trials in the Go/No-Go task (pre: 0.9 ± 0.7 vs. post: 1.8 ± 1.8) and the Spatial DR task (pre: 0.3 ± 0.5 vs. post: 0.8 ± 1.2). However, ΔRT was negatively correlated with Δcerebral oxygenation (r = −0.64, P = 0.004). Other physiological parameters were not correlated with cognitive performance. Venous blood samples were not directly associated with cognitive function after exhaustive exercise.


The present results suggest that recovery of regional cerebral oxygenation affects executive function after exhaustive exercise.


Executive function Reaction time Cerebral oxygenation Brain 



Brain-derived neurotrophic factor


Diastolic blood pressure






Insulin-like growth hormone factor 1


Near-infrared spectroscopy


Nucleus tractus solitarii




Ratings of perceived exertion


Reaction time


Systolic blood pressure


Standard deviation


Total hemoglobin



We are grateful to Dr. Kisou Kubota for providing software to evaluate cognitive function.

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science KAKENHI (Grant Number: 25702039).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mizuki Sudo
    • 1
  • Takaaki Komiyama
    • 2
  • Ryo Aoyagi
    • 2
  • Toshiya Nagamatsu
    • 1
  • Yasuki Higaki
    • 3
  • Soichi Ando
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Physical Fitness Research InstituteMeiji Yasuda Life Foundation of Health and WelfareHachiojiJapan
  2. 2.Graduate School of Sports and Health ScienceFukuoka UniversityFukuokaJapan
  3. 3.Faculty of Sports and Health ScienceFukuoka UniversityFukuokaJapan
  4. 4.Graduate School of Informatics and EngineeringThe University of Electro-communicationsChofuJapan

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