Brief report| Volume 96, ISSUE 4, P754-759, April 2015

Improved Cognitive Performance Following Aerobic Exercise Training in People With Traumatic Brain Injury

Published:November 26, 2014DOI:


      • Cognitive function was examined in persons with traumatic brain injury before and after exercise training.
      • Supervised aerobic exercise training was performed for 12 weeks on a treadmill.
      • Improved cognitive function was observed after exercise training.
      • Improvements in cognition were related to changes in physical performance measures.



      To examine cognitive function in individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) prior to and after participation in an aerobic exercise training program.


      Pre-post intervention study.


      Medical research center.


      Volunteer sample of individuals (N=7) (age, 33.3±7.9y) with chronic nonpenetrating TBI (injury severity: 3=mild, 4=moderate; time since most current injury: 4.0±5.5y) who were ambulatory.


      Twelve weeks of supervised vigorous aerobic exercise training performed 3 times a week for 30 minutes on a treadmill.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Cognitive function was assessed using the Trail Making Test Part A (TMT-A), Trail Making Test Part B (TMT-B), and Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS). Sleep quality and depression were measured with the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and Beck Depression Inventory, version 2 (BDI-II). Indices of cardiorespiratory fitness were used to examine the relation between improvements in cognitive function and cardiorespiratory fitness.


      After training, improvements in cognitive function were observed with greater scores on the TMT-A (10.3±6.8; P=.007), TMT-B (9.6±7.0; P=.011), and RBANS total scale (13.3±9.3; P=.009). No changes were observed in measures of the PSQI and BDI-II. The magnitude of cognitive improvements was also strongly related to the gains in cardiorespiratory fitness.


      These findings suggest that vigorous aerobic exercise training may improve specific aspects of cognitive function in individuals with TBI and cardiorespiratory fitness gains may be a determinant of these improvements.


      List of abbreviations:

      AT (anaerobic threshold), CPET (cardiopulmonary exercise test), RBANS (Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status), TBI (traumatic brain injury), TMT-A (Trail Making Test Part A), TMT-B (Trail Making Test Part B), V˙o2 (oxygen consumption per unit time), WR (work rate)
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