Comparative electroencephalography analysis: Marathon runners during tapering versus sedentary controls reveals no significant differences

J. Moussiopoulou, M. Handrack-Bonnet, B. Pross, O. Pogarell, D. Keeser, M. Halle, P. Falkai, J. Scherr, A. Hasan, A. Roeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Previous studies described various adaptive neuroplastic brain changes associated with physical activity (PA). EEG studies focused mostly on effects during or shortly after short bouts of exercise. This is the first study to investigate the capability of EEG to display PA-induced long-lasting plasticity in runners compared to a sedentary control group. Methods: Thirty trained runners and 30 age- and sex-matched sedentary controls (SC) were included as a subpopulation of the ReCaP (Running effects on Cognition and Plasticity) study. PA was measured with the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ). Resting-state EEG of the runners was recorded in the tapering phase of the training for the Munich marathon 2017. Power spectrum analyses were conducted using standardized low-resolution electromagnetic tomography (sLORETA) and included the following frequency bands: delta: 1.5–6 Hz, theta: 6.5–8.0 Hz, alpha1: 8.5–10 Hz, alpha2: 10.5–12.0 Hz, beta1: 12.5–18.0 Hz, beta2: 18.5–21.0 Hz, beta3: 21.5–30.0 Hz, and total power (1.5–30 Hz). Results: PA (IPAQ) and BMI differed significantly between the groups. The other included demographic parameters were comparable. Statistical nonparametric mapping showed no significant power differences in EEG between the groups. Discussion: Heterogeneity in study protocols, especially in time intervals between exercise cessation and EEG recordings and juxtaposition of acute exercise-induced effects on EEG in previous studies, could be possible reasons for the differences in results. Future studies should record EEG at different time points after exercise cessation and in a broader spectrum of exercise intensities and forms to further explore the capability of EEG in displaying long-term exercise-induced plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3480
JournalBrain and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • EEG
  • marathon
  • physical activity
  • plasticity
  • running


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