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Poster A38, Wednesday, November 8, 10:30 – 11:45 am, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Investigating the Behavioral and Physiological Effects of Acute Exercise on Novel Word Learning in Older Adults: Feasibility and Preliminary Data

Amy D. Rodriguez1, Kyle Hortman1,2, Jeffrey H. Boatright1,2, Monica Coulter1, Joe R. Nocera1,2, Kevin Mammino1, Susan Murphy1,2, Paul Weiss1,2, Bruce A. Crosson1,2,3;1VA RR&D Center for Visual and Neurocognitive Rehabilitation, 2Emory University, 3Georgia State University

Physical exercise is a potent modulator of cognition that may improve learning. Studies have demonstrated that acute bouts of exercise can enhance immediate and long-term retention of new words in healthy young and older adults (Rodriguez, in prep; Salias, 2013; Schmidt-Kassow et al., 2013; Winter et al., 2007), suggesting an effect on acquisition and/or consolidation. However, task-related differences across learning paradigms exist, and the underlying mechanisms of effect remain unclear. To identify an optimal learning paradigm and better understand the physiological effects of acute exercise in older adults, we are: 1) comparing Study Only (SO) vs. Retrieval Practice (RP) learning paradigms; 2) examining changes in serum brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF); and 3) exploring the relationship between novel word learning and BDNF levels. In a 2x2 within-subjects cross-over design, healthy older adults (65-89 y/o) undergo cognitive and physical function assessments and four conditions each comprising three sessions of training [30 minutes of moderate-intensity cycling or gentle stretching (control)] followed by a learning task [15 familiar object-novel word pairs presented in an SO or RP paradigm]. Word recall and recognition testing is conducted immediately after each learning task (three acquisition testing points) as well as before training in sessions 2 and 3 and one week after session 3 (three consolidation testing points). At sessions 1 and 3, four blood draws are taken: immediately before training (baseline), immediately after training, immediately after learning and 15 minutes after learning. Feasibility: Nine participants have been enrolled. Two have withdrawn (22% attrition), three are in progress, and four (3F, 1M; 67-87 y/o) have completed the study. Barriers to recruitment/retention are exclusionary medications, discomfort with exercise and multiple blood draws. No adverse events have been reported. Behavioral data: Raw score accuracy for word recall and recognition was averaged across participants and analyzed descriptively. In the SO condition, accuracy was higher after exercise than stretching for word recall [difference scores= 1, 3.25 and 2 words (immediate); .75, 1.5, and 2.5 words (consolidation)] and for word recognition [difference scores= 1.5, 2 and 1 words (immediate); 2.25, 2.5, and 1 words (consolidation)]. In the RP condition, word recall and recognition accuracy was higher after exercise than stretching at all but the first consolidation testing point; however, the range of difference scores (.33- 1.33 words) was smaller than in the SO condition. Physiological data: Serum BDNF levels (pg/mL) were averaged across participants at the four time points and analyzed descriptively. A similar pattern was observed for exercise and stretching, with BDNF levels increasing from baseline to immediately after training and remaining above baseline 15 minutes after word learning. Preliminary data are not sufficient for describing the relationship between word learning and BDNF levels. Our approach to investigating the behavioral and physiological effects of acute exercise on novel word learning in older adults appears feasible. Preliminary findings are at least partially consistent with previous research suggesting that: 1) exercise may improve acquisition and/or consolidation of new words; and 2) serum BDNF levels increase with exercise. Data collection is ongoing.

Topic Area: Meaning: Lexical Semantics

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