Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS)

Publication Date

Spring 3-29-2022


Sciences and Mathematics, College of


Psychological Science, Department of

BURS Faculty Advisor

Tim Schoenfeld

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


Exercise is cost-effective and reliably suggested to rescue cognitive decline in aging populations (Gomez-Pinilla & Hillman, 2013; Karssemeijer et al., 2017). In addition, exercise enhances cognitive functioning across the lifespan (Ellemberg & St. Louis-Deschenes, 2010; Jentsch & Wolf, 2020; Roig et al., 2013), however the specific mechanisms of exercise that enhance cognition are still unclear. Because exercise is linked with the brain’s opioid system (Farrell et al., 1982), the purpose of this project is to determine how the opioid system is activated by exercise to affect cognitive functioning. Additionally, we know that acute exercise enhances cognitive function and releases beta-endorphins, but we do not fully understand the effect that endorphin release after running has on cognitive function, nor what mediates endorphin release on an individual level. Thus, a major emphasis we are also investigating is attitudes towards running. We analyzed a university population (n=51) for cognitive performance and beta-endorphin concentration before and after running on a treadmill. To analyze cognitive performance, we utilized a Trail Making Test to measure executive function and a 2-back Task to measure working memory (Kirchner, 1958; Reitan, 1956). A short survey was used to assess participant’s attitudes towards running and running frequency (Ogden et al., 1997). Treadmill running was enacted to maintain a runner’s ideal running heart rate according to their age. Saliva taken before and after running was analyzed by Peninsula Labs immunoassay kit. To analyze the relationship between working memory, executive function, and endorphin release, a correlation was run. A correlation was also run for relationship between running attitudes, running frequency, and endorphin release. We expect there to be a negative correlation between working memory, executive function, and endorphin release as well as between running attitudes, running frequency, and endorphin release.