The University of Tennessee at Martin

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Dr. Ann Gathers

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

224 Brehm Hall



Exercise, Cognition, and Catecholamines


With the recent national attention to preventative medicine, the benefits of physical exercise on cognition have become a relevant research focus.  Studies regarding exercise and cognition present with a variety of results. Research indicates a link between exercise and positive physical and chemical neural changes. Physical changes include increases in cortical blood supply, synaptic connections (synaptogenesis), and nerve cell formation (neurogenesis).  Chemical changes include the up-regulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a growth factor associated with modifying the nervous system (neuroplasticity), and increased amounts of the catecholamine neurotransmitters, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. All of these physiological changes have been implicated in learning and memory. 


In this study, we investigate the effects of low and moderate-intensity exercise on three primary types of cognitive performance -- fluency, problem solving and attention. In addition, we quantify pre- and post-exercise catecholamine levels to determine if exercise-induced cognitive changes correlate with chemical changes in the brain. 


From this study, we propose to determine some psychological and biological explanations of the exercise-induced states.




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For more information, please contact:


Dr. Ann Gathers

Assistant Professor of Biology





Dr. Michelle Merwin

Associate Professor of Psychology



Undergraduate Student Researchers