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The effect of an aerobic exercise intervention on episodic memory in individuals with and without subjective cognitive decline

Sewell, Kelsey (2019) The effect of an aerobic exercise intervention on episodic memory in individuals with and without subjective cognitive decline. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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The benefit exercise has on cognition in older adults has been evidenced in many studies, however the impact exercise has on specific cognitive domains, and in individuals at greatest risk of cognitive decline, requires clarification. Individuals with early cognitive decline, identified as having subjective cognitive decline (SCD), may be most receptive to cognitive benefits provided by exercise interventions. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate whether a six month aerobic exercise intervention could improve episodic memory in healthy individuals with and without subjective cognitive decline (SCD). Ninety community-dwelling healthy older adults, aged 69.19 ± 5.21 years (53% female), were randomised into either high intensity exercise, moderate intensity exercise, or a control group. Intervention groups cycled twice a week for 50 minutes, and outcome measures included the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT-II), the Brief Visuospatial Learning Task (BVMT) and the Groton maze recall to measure episodic memory; as well as right and left hippocampal volume. Individuals in the intervention groups did not significantly differ in their performance from pre- to post-intervention on any episodic memory measure or hippocampal volume, compared to the control. There were no significant differences from pre- to post-intervention between those with and without SCD on any episodic memory measure, or for hippocampal volume. However, SCD moderated the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and BVMT performance, indicating that at low levels of SCD, as cardiorespiratory fitness increases, so does episodic memory. This provides partial support for the use of exercise as a prevention tool for cognitive decline; however further research is required to clarify the mechanisms of these benefits and determine the crucial window of opportunity to implement exercise interventions.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation: Psychology, Counselling, Exercise Science and Chiropractic
Supervisor(s): Brown, Belinda and Fujiyama, Hakuei
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