Journal of Undergraduate Research


Yerkes-Dodson theory, physiological arousal, high-intensity exercise


Family, Home, and Social Sciences




Since the Yerkes-Dodson theory was initially put forward (as early as 1906), multiple theorists have suggested an inverted-U relationship between physiological arousal and cognitive performance. Literature on this topic, however, is mixed, with some studies showing evidence supporting the inverted-U relationship and others showing a more linear relationship. Exercise and food-related cognition is one area where the inverted-U hypothesis could be applied. Some studies have shown that high-intensity exercise induces an acute, but temporary suppression to hunger and energy intake compared to low-intensity exercise (King, Tremblay, & Blundell, 1997) and that high-intensity exercise favors negative energy balance to a greater extent than low-intensity exercise (Imbeault, Saint-Pierre, Almeras, Tremblay, 1997). However, others suggest that a suppression of hunger occurs following intense exercise, but the effect is brief and has no influence on energy intake (Klausen, Toubro, Ranneries, Rehfeld, Holst, Christensen, & Astrup 1999). Little research to date has parametrically manipulated levels of exercise intensity and the brain’s response to food cues. Thus, we aimed to parametrically manipulate the level of exercise intensity then study the food-related inhibition using electroencephalogram (EEG) and event-related potentials (ERPs). Specifically, we hypothesized that lower and vigorous levels of exercise were associated with poorer response inhibition towards food cues that are high in calories, sugar, and fat compared to individuals immediately following moderate intensity exercise. To test our hypothesis, we measured changes in brain activity that reflect inhibitory control using EEG and ERPs, response times (RTs), and error rates during a food-related go/no-go task. Due to lack of sufficient time during the course of the award to collect data on all three points, we were only able to collect data on exercise and non-exercise; thus only data from moderate exercise and non-exercise conditions will be presented here.