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      Associations Between Aerobic Fitness and Cognitive Control in Adolescents

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          Previous research has found positive associations between cognitive control and aerobic fitness in preadolescents and adults; however, fewer studies have investigated these associations in adolescents. Adolescence is of particular interest due to continued maturation of the prefrontal cortex; an area that subserves cognitive control. This study investigated the associations of aerobic fitness and cognitive control in adolescents. An assessment of aerobic fitness (Andersen intermittent running test) and two tests of cognitive control were collected to investigate these associations. Participants completed a test of inhibitory control (flanker task) and a test of cognitive flexibility (switch task). Along with traditional measures of reaction time (RT) and accuracy, diffusion modeling was utilized to combine these measures to calculate latent variables (i.e., drift rate, boundary separation, and nondecision time). Associations between cognitive measures and fitness were assessed with linear regressions while controlling for potential confounding factors. Higher fitness was associated with shorter reaction time and higher accuracy in the flanker task, indicating better inhibitory control performance. In addition, greater aerobic fitness was associated with greater quality of information uptake in the flanker task, as indicated by drift rate. In the switch task, higher aerobic fitness was associated with greater accuracy and longer switch RT indicating a speed-accuracy tradeoff. Results from the switch task diffusion modeling supported this conclusion as indicated by greater fitness associated with greater boundary separation, or response conservativeness. Further, greater drift rate in the switch task was associated with greater fitness. These findings corroborate growing evidence indicating the importance of aerobic fitness for inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility. This study extends the literature by demonstrating these effects in a large sample of adolescents with a computational model of the mechanisms that underlie cognition.

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          Most cited references 46

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          Dimensions of executive functioning: Evidence from children

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            Effects of the FITKids randomized controlled trial on executive control and brain function.

            To assess the effect of a physical activity (PA) intervention on brain and behavioral indices of executive control in preadolescent children.
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              The effect of acute treadmill walking on cognitive control and academic achievement in preadolescent children.

              The effect of an acute bout of moderate treadmill walking on behavioral and neuroelectric indexes of the cognitive control of attention and applied aspects of cognition involved in school-based academic performance were assessed. A within-subjects design included 20 preadolescent participants (age=9.5+/-0.5 years; eight female) to assess exercise-induced changes in performance during a modified flanker task and the Wide Range Achievement Test 3. The resting session consisted of cognitive testing followed by a cardiorespiratory fitness assessment to determine aerobic fitness. The exercise session consisted of 20 min of walking on a motor-driven treadmill at 60% of estimated maximum heart rate followed by cognitive testing once heart rate returned to within 10% of pre-exercise levels. Results indicated an improvement in response accuracy, larger P3 amplitude, and better performance on the academic achievement test following aerobic exercise relative to the resting session. Collectively, these findings indicate that single, acute bouts of moderately-intense aerobic exercise (i.e. walking) may improve the cognitive control of attention in preadolescent children, and further support the use of moderate acute exercise as a contributing factor for increasing attention and academic performance. These data suggest that single bouts of exercise affect specific underlying processes that support cognitive health and may be necessary for effective functioning across the lifespan.

                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                14 August 2018
                : 9
                1Department of Psychology, Northeastern University , Boston, MA, United States
                2Centre of Research in Childhood Health, Institute for Sport Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark , Odense, Denmark
                3Sports Medicine Clinic Orthopedic Department, Institute of Regional Health Research, Middelfart Hospital, University of Southern Denmark , Middlefart, Denmark
                4Beckman Institute, University of Illinois , Urbana, IL, United States
                5Department of Health Sciences, Northeastern University , Boston, MA, United States
                Author notes

                Edited by: Jim Grange, Keele University, United Kingdom

                Reviewed by: Juan Lupiáñez, Universidad de Granada, Spain; Bernhard Hommel, Leiden University, Netherlands

                *Correspondence: Anna Bugge anbugge@ 123456health.sdu.dk

                This article was submitted to Cognition, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Copyright © 2018 Westfall, Gejl, Tarp, Wedderkopp, Kramer, Hillman and Bugge.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 5, Equations: 0, References: 58, Pages: 11, Words: 8778
                Funded by: TrygFonden 10.13039/501100007437
                Award ID: 104982
                Original Research


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