Acute Physical Exercise Affects Cognitive Functioning in Children With Cerebral Palsy

in Pediatric Exercise Science
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Little is known about the effects of acute exercise on the cognitive functioning of children with cerebral palsy (CP). Selected cognitive functions were thus measured using a pediatric version of the Stroop test before and after maximal, locomotor based aerobic exercise in 16 independently ambulatory children (8 children with CP), 6–15 years old. Intense exercise had: 1) a significant, large, positive effect on reaction time (RT) for the CP group (preexercise: 892 ± 56.5 ms vs. postexercise: 798 ± 45.6 ms, p < .002, d = 1.87) with a trend for a similar but smaller response for the typically developing (TD) group (preexercise: 855 ± 56.5 ms vs. postexercise: 822 ± 45.6 ms, p < .08, d = 0.59), and 2) a significant, medium, negative effect on the interference effect for the CP group (preexercise: 4.5 ± 2.5%RT vs. postexercise: 13 ± 2.9%RT, p < .04, d = 0.77) with no significant effect for the TD group (preexercise: 7.2 ± 2.5%RT vs. postexercise: 6.9 ± 2.9%RT, p > .4, d = 0.03). Response accuracy was high in both groups pre- and postexercise (>96%). In conclusion, intense exercise impacts cognitive functioning in children with CP, both by increasing processing speed and decreasing executive function.

Maltais, Gane, Dufour, Bouyer, McFadyen, and Voisin are with the Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation and Social Integration Center, Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation and Social Integration, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. Wyss is with the Bloorview Research Institute, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Zabjek is with the Dept. of Physical Therapy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Andrysek is with the Bloorview Research Institute, Holland Bloorview Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Address author correspondence to Julien Voisin at Julien.Voisin@rea.ulaval.ca.