Functional neuroplasticity of facilitation and interference effects on inhibitory control following 3-month physical exercise in aging

Hong Yi Wu, Chih Mao Huang, Ai Ling Hsu, Chiao-Nan Joyce Chen, Changwei W. Wu*, Jyh Horng Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

1 Scopus citations


Preservation of executive function, like inhibition, closely links to the quality of life in senior adults. Although neuroimaging literature has shown enhanced inhibitory function followed by aerobic exercise, current evidence implies inconsistent neuroplasticity patterns along different time durations of exercise. Hence, we conducted a 12-week exercise intervention on 12 young and 14 senior volunteers and repeatedly measured the inhibitory functionality of distinct aspects (facilitation and interference effects) using the numerical Stroop task and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Results showcased improved accuracy and reduced reaction times (RT) after 12-week exercise, attributed to frontoparietal and default mode network effects. In young adults, the first phase (0 to six weeks) exercise increased the activation of the right superior medial frontal gyrus, associated with reduced RT in interference, but in the second intervention phase (six to twelve weeks), the decreased activation of the left superior medial frontal gyrus positively correlated with reduced RT in facilitation. In senior adults, the first six-week intervention led to reduced activations of the inferior frontal gyrus, inferior parietal gyrus, and default mode network regions, associated with the reduced RT in interference. Still, in the second intervention phase, only the visual area exhibited increased activity, associated with reduced RT in interference. Except for the distinctive brain plasticity between the two phases of exercise intervention, the between-group comparison also presented that the old group gained more cognitive benefits within the first six weeks of exercise intervention; however, the cognitive improvements in the young group occurred after six weeks of intervention. Limited by the sample size, these preliminary findings corroborated the benefits of aerobic exercise on the inhibitory functions, implying an age × exercise interaction on the brain plasticity for both facilitation and interference.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3682
Pages (from-to)3682
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 14 02 2024

Bibliographical note

© 2024. The Author(s).


  • Aging
  • Brain/physiology
  • Executive Function/physiology
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging/methods
  • Quality of Life
  • Young Adult


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