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Publication Detail
Heart Rate Variability During Physical Exercise Is Associated With Improved Cognitive Performance in Alzheimer's Dementia Patients-A Longitudinal Feasibility Study
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Authors:
    Schwarck S, Busse N, Ziegler G, Glanz W, Becke A, Düzel E
  • Publication date:
  • Journal:
    Frontiers in Sports and Active Living
  • Volume:
  • Article number:
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  • Keywords:
    Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular training, cognition, dual task, heart rate variability, neurovisceral integration model
  • Notes:
    Copyright © 2021 Schwarck, Busse, Ziegler, Glanz, Becke and Düzel. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Heart rate variability (HRV) rapidly gains attention as an important marker of cardiovascular autonomic modulation. Moreover, there is evidence for a link between the autonomic deficit measurable by reduced HRV and the hypoactivity of the cholinergic system, which is prominently affected in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Despite the positive influence of physical exercise on cognition and its promising association with HRV, previous studies did not explore the effect of long-term physical exercise in older adults with AD. Taking advantage of a longitudinal study we analyzed the effect of a 20-week dual task training regime (3 × 15-min per week) on the vagal mediated HRV index RMSSD (root mean square of successive RR interval differences) during physical exercise and the short-term memory performance in a AD cohort (N = 14). Each training contained physical exercise on a bicycle ergometer while memorizing 30 successively presented pictures as well as the associated post-exercise picture recognition memory test. Linear-mixed modeling revealed that HRV-RMSSD significantly increased over the intervention time. Moreover, the reaction time in the picture recognition task decreased while the accuracy remained stable. Furthermore, a significantly negative relationship between increased fitness measured by HRV-RMSSD and decreased reaction time was observed. This feasibility study points to the positive effects of a dual task regime on physical and cognitive fitness in a sample with impaired cognitive performance. Beyond this, the results show that the responsiveness of parasympathetic system as measured with HRV can be improved in patients with dementia.
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