J Korean Acad Nurs.  2021 Jun;51(3):294-304. 10.4040/jkan.20282.

Influences of Autonomic Function, Salivary Cortisol and Physical Activity on Cognitive Functions in Institutionalized Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment: Based on Neurovisceral Integration Model

  • 1Department of Nursing, College of Medicine, Inha University, Incheon, Korea


This study aimed to investigate objectively measured physical activity (PA) in institutionalized older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and to elucidate the influence of autonomic nervous function, salivary cortisol, and PA on cognitive functions based on neurovisceral integration model.
Overall cognitive function was evaluated using the mini-mental state examination (MMSE) and executive function was evaluated using semantic verbal fluency test and clock drawing test. Actigraph for PA, HRV and sAA for autonomous function, and the geriatric depression scale for depression were used. Saliva specimens were collected in the morning for sAA and cortisol.
Ninety-eight older adults from four regional geriatric hospitals participated in the study. They took 4,499 steps per day on average. They spent 753.93 minutes and 23.12 minutes on average in sedentary and moderate-to-vigorous activity, respectively. In the multiple regression analysis, lower salivary cortisol level (β = - .33, p = .041) and greater step counts (β = .37, p = .029) significantly improved MMSE score. Greater step count (β = .27, p = .016) also exerted a significant influence on verbal fluency, and greater sAA (β = .35, p = .026) was significantly associated with a better clock drawing test result.
Salivary cortisol, sAA and physical activity were significantly associated with cognitive functions. To prevent older adults from developing dementia, strategies are needed to increase their overall PA amount by decreasing sedentary time and to decrease salivary cortisol for cognitive function, and to maintain their sympathetic nervous activity for executive function.


Cognitive Dysfunction; Sedentary Behavior; Autonomic Nervous System; Salivary alpha-Amylases; Cortisol
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