The influence of marathon running on resting-state EEG activity: a longitudinal observational study

Joanna Moussiopoulou, Benjamin Pross, Mirjam Handrack, Daniel Keeser, Oliver Pogarell, Martin Halle, Peter Falkai, Johannes Scherr, Alkomiet Hasan, Astrid Roeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Physical activity (PA) has positive effects on various health aspects and neuronal functions, including neuronal plasticity. Exceeding a certain exercise frequency and duration has been associated with negative effects. Our study investigated the effects of excessive PA with a marathon run (MA) and regular PA (training and recovery phases) on electrocortical activity, as measured by electroencephalography (EEG). Thirty healthy marathon runners (26 male, 45 ± 9 yrs) were enrolled in the study. Four resting-state 32 channel EEG recordings were conducted: 12–8 weeks before MA (T-1), 14–4 days prior to MA (T0), 1–6 days after (T2), and 13–15 weeks after MA (T3). 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). Statistical nonparametric mapping showed reduced power both in the alpha-2 (log-F ratio = − 0.705, threshold log-F ratio = ± 0.685, p < 0.05) and in the delta frequency band (log-F ratio = −0.699, threshold log-F ratio = ± 0.685, p < 0.05) in frontal cortical areas after MA (T2 vs. T0). These effects diminished at long-term follow-up (T3). The results can be interpreted as correlates for subacute neuroplasticity induced by strenuous and prolonged PA. Although previous studies reported an increase in alpha frequency during and directly postexercise, the adverse observation a few days after exercise cessation suggests counterregulatory mechanisms, whose complex origin can be suspected in subcortical circuits, changes in neurotransmitter systems and modulation of affectivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1311-1321
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Electrocortical activity
  • Electroencephalography
  • Exercise
  • Neuroplasticity
  • Physical activity
  • Plasticity
  • Running


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