Multimodal Physical Exercise Affects Visuo-Spatial Working Memory: Preliminary Evidence from a Descriptive Study on Tai-Chi Practitioners and Runners

Author: Emahnuel Troisi Lopez1, Marianna Liparoti2, Noemi Passarello3, Fabio Lucidi2, Laura Mandolesi3
1 Institute of Applied Sciences and Intelligent Systems, National Research Council, 80078 Pozzuoli, Italy.
2 Department of Social and Developmental Psychology, Faculty of Medicine and Psychology, University of Roma "Sapienza", 00185 Rome, Italy.
3 Department of Humanities, University of Naples Federico II, 80138 Naples, Italy.
Conference/Journal: Brain Sci
Date published: 2023 Sep 30
Other: Volume ID: 13 , Issue ID: 10 , Pages: 1400 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3390/brainsci13101400. , Word Count: 217

Recent evidence has shown a relationship between physical exercise (PE) and cognitive functioning. However, it is unknown if unimodal and multimodal modalities of PE affect cognitive abilities in different ways. To fill this gap, we analyzed the effects of unimodal PE (running) and multimodal PE (Tai Chi) on specific cognitive abilities. A sample of 33 participants (mean age = 52.6 ± 7.2) divided into eleven runners, eleven Tai Chi practitioners, and eleven age-matched sedentary individuals were subjected to a neuropsychological tests battery to assess shifting and problem solving abilities (Rule Shift Cards, BADS-RS, and Key Search tasks), verbal fluency (semantic and phonemic verbal fluency tasks), verbal memory (Rey's 15 words test), visuo-spatial working memory (Corsi test), and global cognitive functioning (clock-drawing test). The results showed significantly higher BADS-RS scores in runners and Tai Chi practitioners in comparison to the sedentary participants, thus evidencing improved shifting abilities for active individuals. Interestingly, post hoc analysis showed significantly higher span scores of Corsi test only in Tai Chi practitioners as compared to sedentary participants, suggesting how multimodal PE facilitates the visuo-spatial working memory processes. Although preliminary, our descriptive study indicates that the type of PE could modulate specific cognitive domains, even if the practice of motor activity favors a global cognitive improvement.

Keywords: cognitive functions; executive functions; memory; physical activity; sport.

PMID: 37891768 PMCID: PMC10605525 DOI: 10.3390/brainsci13101400