Cognitive Neurodynamics

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 33–43 | Cite as

Effects of aerobic exercise on sad emotion regulation in young women: an electroencephalograph study

  • Ren-Jen HwangEmail author
  • Hsin-Ju Chen
  • Zhan-Xian Guo
  • Yu-Sheun Lee
  • Tai-Ying Liu
Research Article


The effects of exercise on cognitive abilities have been studied. However, evidence regarding the neural substrates of sad emotion regulation is limited. Women have higher rates for affective disorders than men, but insufficient outcomes assess how aerobic exercises modulate central frontal activation in sad emotion inhibition and resilience among healthy women. This study investigated the effects of aerobic exercise-related brain activity on sad emotion inhibition processing in young women. Sad facial Go/No-Go and neutral Go/No-Go trials were conducted among 30 healthy young women to examine the changes in the N2 component, which reflects frontal inhibition responses, between pre-exercise and post-exercise periods. The first test was performed before aerobic exercise (baseline; 1st) and the second test was performed during an absolute rest period of 90 min after exercise. The sad No-Go stimuli that evoked N200 (N2) event-related potential were recorded and analyzed. The results showed that in the sad No-Go trials, N2 activation at the central-prefrontal cortex was significantly attenuated after exercise compared to the baseline N2 activation. Exercise-modulated N2 activation was not observed in the neutral No-Go trials. The behavioral error rates of sad No-Go trials did not differ between the two experiments. A reduced engagement of central-frontal activation to sad No-Go stimuli was shown after exercise. However, behavioral performance was consistent between the two measurements. The findings scope the benefits of the aerobic exercise on the neural efficiency in responding to sad emotion-eliciting cues as well as adaptive transitions reinstatement for regulatory capabilities in healthy young women.


Exercise Go/No-Go Sad emotion regulation Brain EEG 



We thank the 30 participants as well as CGUST for providing administrative support. The authors would like to thank L- F Ni, Y-J Yan for statistical counseling; Yu-Ling Shih for her assistance in make aerobic exercise session is adequate and En-Zi Lin, RA for her administration support. The study was funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taiwan (NSC 100-2410-H-255-005 -MY2; NSC 101-2629-B-255 -001 -MY2) and received financial assistance from Chang Gung Memorial Hospital (BMRPC52).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare there is no conflict of interest.


  1. Austin MW, Ploughman M, Glynn L, Corbett D (2014) Aerobic exercise effects on neuroprotection and brain repair following stroke: a systematic review and perspective. Neurosci Res 87:8–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Balconi M, Bortolotti A (2013) Emotional face recognition, empathic trait (BEES), and cortical contribution in response to positive and negative cues. The effect of rTMS on dorsal medial prefrontal cortex. Cogn Neurodyn 7:13–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Basso JC, Shang A, Elman M, Karmouta R, Suzuki WA (2015) Acute exercise improves prefrontal cortex but not hippocampal function in healthy adults. J Int Neuropsychol Soc JINS 21:791–801CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bayazit O, Ungur G (2018) Neuroelectric responses of sportsmen and sedentaries under cognitive stress. Cogn Neurodyn 12:295–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boecker M, Buecheler MM, Schroeter ML, Gauggel S (2007) Prefrontal brain activation during stop-signal response inhibition: an event-related functional near-infrared spectroscopy study. Behav Brain Res 176:259–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bradley MM, Codispoti M, Sabatinelli D, Lang PJ (2001) Emotion and motivation II: sex differences in picture processing. Emotion 1:300–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Budde H, Wegner M, Soya H, Voelcker-Rehage C, McMorris T (2016) Neuroscience of exercise: neuroplasticity and its behavioral consequences. Neural Plast 2016:3643879CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Buodo G, Sarlo M, Mento G, Messerotti Benvenuti S, Palomba D (2017) Unpleasant stimuli differentially modulate inhibitory processes in an emotional Go/NoGo task: an event-related potential study. Cogn Emot 31:127–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bush G, Luu P, Posner MI (2000) Cognitive and emotional influences in anterior cingulate cortex. Trends Cogn Sci 4:215–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chaddock L, Erickson KI, Prakash RS, Voss MW, VanPatter M et al (2012) A functional MRI investigation of the association between childhood aerobic fitness and neurocognitive control. Biol Psychol 89:260–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chang YK, Labban JD, Gapin JI, Etnier JL (2012) The effects of acute exercise on cognitive performance: a meta-analysis. Brain Res 1453:87–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chiu Y-C, Lin C-H, Lin J-H (2007) The neutral face is not really expressionless and emotionless. In: Taiwanese Psychology Association 46th annual conference, p 35Google Scholar
  13. Davidson RJ (2002) Anxiety and affective style: role of prefrontal cortex and amygdala. Biol Psychiatry 51:68–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Davidson RJ, Jackson DC, Kalin NH (2000) Emotion, plasticity, context, and regulation: perspectives from affective neuroscience. Psychol Bull 126:890–909CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Del Giorno JM, Hall EE, O’Leary KC, Bixby WR, Miller PC (2010) Cognitive function during acute exercise: a test of the transient hypofrontality theory. J Sport Exerc Psychol 32:312–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dietrich A (2006) Transient hypofrontality as a mechanism for the psychological effects of exercise. Psychiatry Res 145:79–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dietrich A, Audiffren M (2011) The reticular-activating hypofrontality (RAH) model of acute exercise. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 35:1305–1325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dietrich A, Sparling PB (2004) Endurance exercise selectively impairs prefrontal-dependent cognition. Brain Cogn 55:516–524CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Eimer M (1993) Effects of attention and stimulus probability on ERPs in a Go/Nogo task. Biol Psychol 35:123–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ekman P (1992) Are there basic emotions? Psychol Rev 99:550–553CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ekman P, Levenson RW, Friesen WV (1983) Autonomic nervous system activity distinguishes among emotions. Science 221:1208–1210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Eugene F, Levesque J, Mensour B, Leroux JM, Beaudoin G et al (2003) The impact of individual differences on the neural circuitry underlying sadness. Neuroimage 19:354–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Falkenstein M, Hoormann J, Hohnsbein J (1999) ERP components in Go/Nogo tasks and their relation to inhibition. Acta Psychol (Amst) 101:267–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Feng C, Li W, Tian T, Luo Y, Gu R et al (2014) Arousal modulates valence effects on both early and late stages of affective picture processing in a passive viewing task. Soc Neurosci 9:364–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Friedman D, Nessler D, Cycowicz YM, Horton C (2009) Development of and change in cognitive control: a comparison of children, young adults, and older adults. Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci 9:91–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gan S, Yang J, Chen X, Yang Y (2015) The electrocortical modulation effects of different emotion regulation strategies. Cogn Neurodyn 9:399–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Guntekin B, Femir B, Golbasi BT, Tulay E, Basar E (2017) Affective pictures processing is reflected by an increased long-distance EEG connectivity. Cogn Neurodyn 11:355–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Heijnen S, Hommel B, Kibele A, Colzato LS (2015) Neuromodulation of aerobic exercise: a review. Front Psychol 6:1890Google Scholar
  29. Hillman CH, Snook EM, Jerome GJ (2003) Acute cardiovascular exercise and executive control function. Int J Psychophysiol 48:307–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hillman CH, Pontifex MB, Raine LB, Castelli DM, Hall EE, Kramer AF (2009) The effect of acute treadmill walking on cognitive control and academic achievement in preadolescent children. Neuroscience 159:1044–1054CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hillman CH, Kamijo K, Scudder M (2011) A review of chronic and acute physical activity participation on neuroelectric measures of brain health and cognition during childhood. Prev Med 52(Suppl 1):S21–S28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ho HT, Schroger E, Kotz SA (2015) Selective attention modulates early human evoked potentials during emotional face-voice processing. J Cogn Neurosci 27:798–818CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hwang RJ, Wu CH, Chen LF, Yeh TC, Hsieh JC (2009) Female menstrual phases modulate human prefrontal asymmetry: a magnetoencephalographic study. Horm Behav 55:203–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hyde JS, Mezulis AH, Abramson LY (2008) The ABCs of depression: integrating affective, biological, and cognitive models to explain the emergence of the gender difference in depression. Psychol Rev 115:291–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Isoglu-Alkac U, Ermutlu MN, Eskikurt G, Yucesir I, Demirel Temel S, Temel T (2018) Dancers and fastball sports athletes have different spatial visual attention styles. Cogn Neurodyn 12:201–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ji LY, Li XL, Liu Y, Sun XW, Wang HF et al (2017) Time-dependent effects of acute exercise on university students’ cognitive performance in temperate and cold environments. Front Psychol 8:1192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. John NT, Puthankattil DS, Menon R (2018) Analysis of long range dependence in the EEG signals of Alzheimer patients. Cogn Neurodyn 12:183–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kessing LV (1998) Cognitive impairment in the euthymic phase of affective disorder. Psychol Med 28:1027–1038CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kramer AF, Erickson KI (2007) Capitalizing on cortical plasticity: influence of physical activity on cognition and brain function. Trends Cogn Sci 11:342–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lambourne K, Tomporowski P (2010) The effect of exercise-induced arousal on cognitive task performance: a meta-regression analysis. Brain Res 1341:12–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lambourne K, Audiffren M, Tomporowski PD (2010) Effects of acute exercise on sensory and executive processing tasks. Med Sci Sports Exerc 42:1396–1402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Levesque J, Eugene F, Joanette Y, Paquette V, Mensour B et al (2003a) Neural circuitry underlying voluntary suppression of sadness. Biol Psychiatry 53:502–510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Levesque J, Joanette Y, Mensour B, Beaudoin G, Leroux JM et al (2003b) Neural correlates of sad feelings in healthy girls. Neuroscience 121:545–551CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lupien SJ, McEwen BS, Gunnar MR, Heim C (2009) Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behaviour and cognition. Nat Rev Neurosci 10:434–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ma J, Liu C, Chen X (2016) Emotional modulation of conflict processing in the affective domain: evidence from event-related potentials and event-related spectral perturbation analysis. Sci Rep 6:31278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mata J, Hogan CL, Joormann J, Waugh CE, Gotlib IH (2013) Acute exercise attenuates negative affect following repeated sad mood inductions in persons who have recovered from depression. J Abnorm Psychol 122:45–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Maxwell JS, Shackman AJ, Davidson RJ (2005) Unattended facial expressions asymmetrically bias the concurrent processing of nonemotional information. J Cogn Neurosci 17:1386–1395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mika A, Bouchet CA, Bunker P, Hellwinkel JE, Spence KG et al (2015) Voluntary exercise during extinction of auditory fear conditioning reduces the relapse of fear associated with potentiated activity of striatal direct pathway neurons. Neurobiol Learn Mem 125:224–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Morita Y, Morita K, Yamamoto M, Waseda Y, Maeda H (2001) Effects of facial affect recognition on the auditory P300 in healthy subjects. Neurosci Res 41:89–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ostadan F, Centeno C, Daloze JF, Frenn M, Lundbye-Jensen J, Roig M (2016) Changes in corticospinal excitability during consolidation predict acute exercise-induced off-line gains in procedural memory. Neurobiol Learn Mem 136:196–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Penedo FJ, Dahn JR (2005) Exercise and well-being: a review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity. Curr Opin Psychiatry 18:189–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Phan KL, Wager TD, Taylor SF, Liberzon I (2004) Functional neuroimaging studies of human emotions. CNS Spectr 9:258–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pluchino N, Russo M, Santoro AN, Litta P, Cela V, Genazzani AR (2013a) Steroid hormones and BDNF. Neuroscience 239:271–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pluchino N, Santoro A, Casarosa E, Wenger JM, Genazzani AD et al (2013b) Advances in neurosteroids: role in clinical practice. Climacteric 16(Suppl 1):8–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Pontifex MB, Raine LB, Johnson CR, Chaddock L, Voss MW et al (2011) Cardiorespiratory fitness and the flexible modulation of cognitive control in preadolescent children. J Cogn Neurosci 23:1332–1345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Puiu T, Kairys AE, Pauer L, Schmidt-Wilcke T, Ichesco E et al (2016) Association of alterations in gray matter volume with reduced evoked-pain connectivity following short-term administration of pregabalin in patients with fibromyalgia. Arthritis Rheumatol 68:1511–1521CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Rao AR (2018) An oscillatory neural network model that demonstrates the benefits of multisensory learning. Cogn Neurodyn 12:481–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Renaud M, Bherer L, Maquestiaux F (2010) A high level of physical fitness is associated with more efficient response preparation in older adults. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 65B:317–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Salame S, Garcia PC, Real CC, Borborema J, Mota-Ortiz SR et al (2016) Distinct neuroplasticity processes are induced by different periods of acrobatic exercise training. Behav Brain Res 308:64–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Schneider F, Gur RC, Gur RE, Muenz LR (1994a) Standardized mood induction with happy and sad facial expressions. Psychiatry Res 51:19–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Schneider F, Gur RC, Jaggi JL, Gur RE (1994b) Differential effects of mood on cortical cerebral blood flow: a 133xenon clearance study. Psychiatry Res 52:215–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Subhani AR, Kamel N, Mohamad Saad MN, Nandagopal N, Kang K, Malik AS (2018) Mitigation of stress: new treatment alternatives. Cogn Neurodyn 12:1–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Swainson R, Cunnington R, Jackson GM, Rorden C, Peters AM et al (2003) Cognitive control mechanisms revealed by ERP and fMRI: evidence from repeated task-switching. J Cogn Neurosci 15:785–799CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Tharawadeepimuk K, Wongsawat Y (2017) Quantitative EEG evaluation for performance level analysis of professional female soccer players. Cogn Neurodyn 11:233–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Thayer JF, Hansen AL, Saus-Rose E, Johnsen BH (2009) Heart rate variability, prefrontal neural function, and cognitive performance: the neurovisceral integration perspective on self-regulation, adaptation, and health. Ann Behav Med 37:141–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Vissing SF, Hjortso EM (1996) Central motor command activates sympathetic outflow to the cutaneous circulation in humans. J Physiol 492(Pt 3):931–939CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Vissing J, Andersen M, Diemer NH (1996) Exercise-induced changes in local cerebral glucose utilization in the rat. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab 16:729–736CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Voss MW, Prakash RS, Erickson KI, Basak C, Chaddock L et al (2010) Plasticity of brain networks in a randomized intervention trial of exercise training in older adults. Front Aging Neurosci 2:32Google Scholar
  69. Voss MW, Heo S, Prakash RS, Erickson KI, Alves H et al (2013) The influence of aerobic fitness on cerebral white matter integrity and cognitive function in older adults: results of a one-year exercise intervention. Hum Brain Mapp 34:2972–2985CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Wang CC, Chu CH, Chu IH, Chan KH, Chang YK (2013) Executive function during acute exercise: the role of exercise intensity. J Sport Exerc Psychol 35:358–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Williams PG, Suchy Y, Rau HK (2009) Individual differences in executive functioning: implications for stress regulation. Ann Behav Med 37:126–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Yamamoto M, Morita K, Waseda Y, Ueno T, Maeda H (2001) Changes in auditory P300 with clinical remission in schizophrenia: effects of facial-affect stimuli. Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 55:347–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Yang H, Dong M, Chen S, Zheng X (2012) The effect of early attention allocation on location-based attention toward a later threat: an ERP study. Neurosci Lett 523:62–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Yao Z, Yu D, Wang L, Zhu X, Guo J, Wang Z (2016) Effects of valence and arousal on emotional word processing are modulated by concreteness: behavioral and ERP evidence from a lexical decision task. Int J Psychophysiol 110:231–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Zeng H, Yang C, Dai G, Qin F, Zhang J, Kong W (2018) EEG classification of driver mental states by deep learning. Cogn Neurodyn. Google Scholar
  76. Zheng X, Hasegawa H (2016) Central dopaminergic neurotransmission plays an important role in thermoregulation and performance during endurance exercise. Eur J Sport Sci 16:818–828CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Zschucke E, Renneberg B, Dimeo F, Wustenberg T, Strohle A (2015) The stress-buffering effect of acute exercise: evidence for HPA axis negative feedback. Psychoneuroendocrinology 51:414–425CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NursingChang Gung University of Science and Technology (CGUST)Tao-YuanTaiwan, ROC
  2. 2.Nursing DepartmentChang Gung Memorial HospitalLinkouTaiwan
  3. 3.Center of Clinical Competency CenterChang Gung University of Science and Technology (CGUST)Tao-YuanTaiwan
  4. 4.China Medical University HospitalTaichung CityTaiwan
  5. 5.Science and Technology Policy Research and Information CenterNational Applied Research LaboratoriesTaipeiTaiwan, ROC

Personalised recommendations