Beyond the catecholamines hypothesis for an acute exercise–cognition interaction: A neurochemical perspective

T. McMorris, Tony Turner, B Hale, John Sproule

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

Research shows that moderate duration, moderate intensity, acute exercise generates increases in plasma catecholamines concentrations, which stimulate the vagal/nucleus tractus solitarii pathway. This induces the synthesis and release of catecholamines in the brain. Moderate increases in catecholamines concentrations facilitate performance of most cognitive tasks. Long duration, moderate intensity, and heavy exercise generate excessive concentrations of catecholamines, as well as resulting in increased concentrations of cortisol, which interact with catecholamines to inhibit working memory. However, heavy exercise has a beneficial effect on long-term memory due to activation of β-adrenoreceptors in the hippocampus and increased exercise-induced brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels, which aid neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. Heavy exercise also facilitates performance of autonomous tasks, probably due to activation of α1- and β-adrenoreceptors. With attention/perception tasks results are somewhat equivocal, although theoretically activation of α1- and β-adrenoreceptors should also aid the performance of these tasks.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExercise-Cognition Interaction
Subtitle of host publicationNeuroscience Perspectives
EditorsTerry McMorris
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Number of pages39
ISBN (Print)9780128007785
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Adrenoreceptors
  • Arousal
  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
  • Cortisol
  • Working memory


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