For training working memory, run an obstacle course?

Prior studies have shown the benefit of walking and other moderate aerobic exercise programs on verbal memory and other cognition in the elderly. Working memory is usually intact in such subjects, so that the effects on working memory of walking programs are less well documented.

According to this article, working memory benefited from exercise requiring both locomotion and proprioception. This brings up the intriguing possibility of specific exercise programs to retrain specific cognitive deficits. On the critical side, I'd note that the results would have been more robust as specific to activities like climbing if a control group of fast walking or other aerobic program had been done, rather than just classroom and yoga control groups.

ABSTRACT

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Ross G. Alloway and Tracy Packiam Alloway (2015) THE WORKING MEMORY BENEFITS OF PROPRIOCEPTIVELY DEMANDING TRAINING: A PILOT STUDY, . Perceptual and Motor Skills: Volume 120, Issue , pp. 766-775.

doi: 10.2466/22.PMS.120v18x1

THE WORKING MEMORY BENEFITS OF PROPRIOCEPTIVELY DEMANDING TRAINING: A PILOT STUDY1, 2

Ross G. Alloway1 and Tracy Packiam Alloway1 1University of North Florida

Summary.—The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of proprioception on working memory. It was also of interest whether an acute and highly intensive period of exercise would yield working memory gains. The training group completed a series of proprioceptively demanding exercises. There were also control classroom and yoga groups. Working memory was measured using a backward digit recall test. The data indicated that active, healthy adults who undertook acute, proprioceptively demanding training improved working memory scores compared to the classroom and yoga groups. One possible reason that the training yielded significant working memory gains could be that the training was proprioceptively dynamic, requiring proprioception and at least one other factor—such as locomotion or navigation—at the same time, which may have contributed to the improvements in working memory performance.

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