Exercise Psychophysiology Laboratory

Dog ready for a walkThe Exercise Psychophysiology Laboratory (ExPPL) conducts research in the general area of Exercise Psychology. We are particularly interested in the effects of physical activity on emotional and cognitive health. Traditionally, the study of exercise psychology has focused almost exclusively on the psychological aspects of such physical activity with little concern for the physiological changes that likely mediate these psychological changes. In the ExPPL, we study the interaction of psychological and physiological processes in the context of exercise and physical activity by utilizing a psychophysiological perspective. We utilize a theory-based, multi-level integrative perspective, using psychophysiological, self-report, and behavioral methodologies to address the research questions being studied. To this end, the ExPPL is equipped with instruments for the recording of electroencephalographic (EEG) and electromyographic (EMG) activity, as well as computer-based systems for the assessment of self-report and behavior.

Generally, research in the ExPPL involves the examination of the role of exercise, encapsulated along a physical activity continuum ranging from low-to-moderate forms of exercise (e.g., walking, cycling, running) to vigorous exercise (e.g., competitive swimming, running) and physical activity performed in extreme environments (e.g., firefighting), on a variety of psychological outcomes, including basic effect, fatigue/energy, anxiety, and depression. Across this continuum, research in the ExPPL is aimed at a more complete understanding of the psychophysiological effects that such exercise/physical activity has on the individual. This includes not only an understanding of the pre-to-post exercise changes that take place but also an understanding of the in-task changes that occur. Ultimately, this research is aimed at developing a better understanding of how exercise makes people feel in order to enhance adherence to such activity. To this end, the following questions drive the research:

  • How does exercise influence the way people feel after they have finished (e.g., do they feel exhilaration, distress, fatigue, or boredom)?
  • How does exercise influence the way people feel during the exercise?
  • How do individuals differ in terms of their preference for and tolerance of different levels of exercise intensity and does that preference/tolerance influence how they feel?
  • How do these factors influence the enjoyment of exercise and the motivation to stay in an exercise program over the long haul?
  • How is cognitive functioning (e.g., decision-making ability) impacted by exercise in extreme conditions?

Perhaps most importantly, research in the ExPPL is aimed at determining psychophysiological mechanisms underlying the effects of exercise on these affective and cognitive changes.

Our Principal Investigator is Steven J. Petruzzello.

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