Presentation Title

P-14 Fit or Frazzled? Comparing the Effects of Stress vs. Exercise on the Brain

Presenter Status

MS student, Department of Biology

Second Presenter Status

MS student, Department of Biology

Third Presenter Status

BS student, Department of Biology

Fourth Presenter Status

Professor, Department of Behavioral Sciences

Fifth Presenter Status

Assistant Professor, Department of Biology

Preferred Session

Poster Session

Start Date

30-10-2015 2:00 PM

End Date

30-10-2015 3:00 PM

Presentation Abstract

College freshmen face several unique stressors, such as adjusting to a new living and academic environment and dealing with mounting financial obligations. Chronic stress leads to structural changes in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus that cause cognitive impairment. But interestingly, exercise is a physical stressor that facilitates function in these brain areas. The goals of the current study were to: 1) compare the effects of physical fitness vs. stress on memory performance in college freshmen (n=22), and 2) compare the effects of fitness vs. stress on the students’ acute stress response. Preliminary data indicated that higher fitness levels may have been associated with improved hippocampus-dependent memory scores (p = 0.08, Cohen’s d=0.7) , but not prefrontal cortex memory. Higher fit students had an increased salivary cortisol response but decreased blood pressure response to a mild, cognitive stressor (p < 0.05). Students with higher self-reports of stress performed significantly worse on the prefrontal cortex-based task (p < 0.05) and showed a statistical trend for impairment on the hippocampus-based task (p = 0.06). Higher stress levels resulted in a significant decrease in salivary cortisol and increase in blood pressure to a mild, cognitive stressor (p < 0.05).

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by a Faculty Research Grant through the Office of Research and Creative Scholarship at Andrews University.

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Oct 30th, 2:00 PM Oct 30th, 3:00 PM

P-14 Fit or Frazzled? Comparing the Effects of Stress vs. Exercise on the Brain

College freshmen face several unique stressors, such as adjusting to a new living and academic environment and dealing with mounting financial obligations. Chronic stress leads to structural changes in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus that cause cognitive impairment. But interestingly, exercise is a physical stressor that facilitates function in these brain areas. The goals of the current study were to: 1) compare the effects of physical fitness vs. stress on memory performance in college freshmen (n=22), and 2) compare the effects of fitness vs. stress on the students’ acute stress response. Preliminary data indicated that higher fitness levels may have been associated with improved hippocampus-dependent memory scores (p = 0.08, Cohen’s d=0.7) , but not prefrontal cortex memory. Higher fit students had an increased salivary cortisol response but decreased blood pressure response to a mild, cognitive stressor (p < 0.05). Students with higher self-reports of stress performed significantly worse on the prefrontal cortex-based task (p < 0.05) and showed a statistical trend for impairment on the hippocampus-based task (p = 0.06). Higher stress levels resulted in a significant decrease in salivary cortisol and increase in blood pressure to a mild, cognitive stressor (p < 0.05).