Despite findings showing that acute exercise may help enhance emotion regulation, the neurophysiological mechanisms of these effects remain poorly understood. In this study, we examined whether acute exercise influences cognitive emotion regulation, and, in particular, an implicit cognitive reappraisal. Twenty sedentary young women were randomly assigned to either a control group (n = 10) or an exercise group (n = 10). Participants underwent an implicit cognitive reappraisal task twice, before and after the 30-min acute exercise or control, alongside functional near-infrared spectroscopy recordings (fNIRS). The left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and left orbital frontal cortex (OFC) were activated during implicit cognitive reappraisal at baseline, but only the left dlPFC activation was linked with behavioral performance. Acute exercise enhanced the activation of these regions, reflective of the partial neural bases of implicit cognitive reappraisal, in the left dlPFC and left OFC, but did not alter the behavioral performance. Results also showed that acute exercise moderated the positive effect of left dlPFC activation on implicit cognitive reappraisal performance; specifically, this effect was stronger in the exercise group. In conclusion, the enhanced activation of the left dlPFC by acute exercise and the increased link between behavioral performance and its neural indices may point to acute exercise as a promoter of implicit cognitive reappraisal.
Behav Brain Res. 2021 Mar 15:113233. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2021.113233. Online ahead of print.