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Charles H. Hillman, Kirk I. Erickson, and Bradley D. Hatfield

The past two decades have uncovered the beneficial relation of physical activity and other health behaviors on brain and cognition, with the majority of data emerging from older adult populations. More recently, a similar research thread has emerged in school-aged children, which offers insight into the relation of physical activity to scholastic performance, providing a real-world application of the benefits observed in the laboratory. Technological advances have similarly furthered our understanding of physical activity effects on cognitive and brain health. Given this emerging body of work, this manuscript reviews the basic findings within the field, but more importantly suggests triggers or signals from the emerging literature that will shape the field in the near future. The overall goal of this body of research is to increase cognitive and brain health to promote effective functioning of individuals across the lifespan.

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Charles H. Hillman, Bruce N. Cuthbert, Margaret M. Bradley, and Peter J. Lang

Psychophysiological responses of two rival sport fan groups were assessed within the context of Lang’s biphasic theory of emotion. Twenty-four participants, placed in two groups based on their identification with local sport teams, viewed 6 pictures from 6 categories: team-relevant pleasant sport, team-irrelevant sport, team-relevant unpleasant sport, erotica, household objects, and mutilation. Fans rated appetitive sport pictures higher in pleasure and arousal compared to aversive sport pictures. Physiological measures (startle probe-P3, the startle eye-blink reflex, slow cortical potentials to picture onset, and skin conductance) differentiated both appetitive and aversive team-relevant categories from team-irrelevant pictures, and increased orbicularis oculi EMG was found only for team-relevant appetitive pictures. These results suggest there are differences between rival sport fans in response to the same pictorial stimuli, and further suggest that fans provide an ideal population in which to measure motivation toward appetitive stimuli.

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Darla M. Castelli, Charles H. Hillman, Sarah M. Buck, and Heather E. Erwin

The relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement has received much attention owing to the increasing prevalence of children who are overweight and unfit, as well as the inescapable pressure on schools to produce students who meet academic standards. This study examined 259 public school students in third and fifth grades and found that field tests of physical fitness were positively related to academic achievement. Specifically, aerobic capacity was positively associated with achievement, whereas BMI was inversely related. Associations were demonstrated in total academic achievement, mathematics achievement, and reading achievement, thus suggesting that aspects of physical fitness may be globally related to academic performance in preadolescents. The findings are discussed with regards to maximizing school performance and the implications for educational policies.

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Sean P. Deeny, Charles H. Hillman, Christopher M. Janelle, and Bradley D. Hatfield

Electroencephalographic (EEG) coherence was assessed during a 4-s aiming period prior to trigger pull in expert marksmen (n = 10) and skilled shooters (n = 9) over the course of a regulation round of small-bore rifle shooting. Although both groups were highly experienced, the skilled group had lower ability. Given that specialization of cortical function occurs as domain-specific expertise increases, experts were predicted to exhibit less cortico-cortical communication, especially between cognitive and motor areas, compared to the skilled group. Coherence was assessed for three frequency bands (low alpha, 8–10 Hz; high alpha, 10–13 Hz; and low beta, 13–22 Hz) using sites F3, Fz, F4, C3, Cz, C4, T3, T4, P3, Pz, P4, O1, and O2. Compared to the skilled group, experts exhibited lower coherence between left temporal (T3) and mid-line frontal (Fz) regions for low-alpha and low-beta frequencies, lower coherence for high-alpha between all left hemisphere sites and (Fz), and lower coherence between T3 and all midline sites for the low-beta band. The results reveal that, compared to lesser skilled shooters, experts engage in less cortico-cortical communication, particularly between left temporal association and motor control regions, which implies decreased involvement of cognition with motor processes.

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Heidi J. Syväoja, Anna Kankaanpää, Jouni Kallio, Harto Hakonen, Janne Kulmala, Charles H. Hillman, Anu-Katriina Pesonen, and Tuija H. Tammelin

Background: This study investigated the associations of subjectively and objectively measured physical activity (PA) and sedentary behavior with academic achievement. We further examined whether aerobic fitness, obesity, and bedtime mediate these associations. Methods: This study included 970 children aged 9–15 years (52.3% girls) from 9 schools throughout Finland. Register-based academic achievement [grade point average (GPA)] as well as self-reported and accelerometer-measured PA/sedentary behavior were assessed during spring 2013. Aerobic fitness (assessed via a maximal shuttle run test), body composition (assessed via bioimpedance analysis), and self-reported bedtime were collected. Structural equation modeling was applied to examine the associations. Standardized regression coefficients are presented. Results: Self-reported PA had a direct positive [β = 0.084; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.023 to 0.145] and an indirect positive association with GPA through higher aerobic fitness (β = 0.061; 95% CI, 0.033 to −0.087). Accelerometer-based PA was not associated with GPA. Self-reported screen time had an indirect negative association with GPA through later bedtime (β = −0.071; 95% CI, −0.096 to −0.035) and lower aerobic fitness (β = −0.039; 95% CI, −0.059 to 0.019). Nonscreen sedentary time had a direct positive (β = 0.193; 95% CI, 0.101 to −0.289) and an indirect negative association with GPA through lower aerobic fitness (β = −0.040; 95% CI, −0.063 to −0.016). Conclusions: Participating in PA, avoiding excessive screen time, and going to bed earlier may benefit academic achievement.

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Christopher M. Janelle, Charles H. Hillman, Ross J. Apparies, Nicholas P. Murray, Launi Meili, Elizabeth A. Fallon, and Bradley D. Hatfield

The purpose of this study was to examine whether variability in gaze behavior and cortical activation would differentiate expert (n = 12) and nonexpert (n = 13) small-bore rifle shooters. Spectral-activity and eye-movement data were collected concurrently during the course of a regulation indoor sequence of 40 shots from the standing position. Experts exhibited significantly superior shooting performance, as well as a significantly longer quiet eye period preceding shot execution than did nonexperts. Additionally, expertise interacted with hemispheric activation levels: Experts demonstrated a significant increase in left-hemisphere alpha and beta power, accompanied by a reduction in right-hemisphere alpha and beta power, during the preparatory period just prior to the shot. Nonexperts exhibited similar hemispheric asymmetry, but to a lesser extent than did experts. Findings suggest systematic expertise-related differences in ocular and cortical activity during the preparatory phase leading up to the trigger pull that reflects more optimal organization of the neural structures needed to achieve high-level performance.

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Kenneth E. Powell, Abby C. King, David M. Buchner, Wayne W. Campbell, Loretta DiPietro, Kirk I. Erickson, Charles H. Hillman, John M. Jakicic, Kathleen F. Janz, Peter T. Katzmarzyk, William E. Kraus, Richard F. Macko, David X. Marquez, Anne McTiernan, Russell R. Pate, Linda S. Pescatello, and Melicia C. Whitt-Glover

Background: The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report provides the evidence base for the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition. Methods: The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee addressed 38 questions and 104 subquestions selected for their public health relevance, potential to inform public policies and programs, maturity of the relevant science, and applicability to the general US population. Rigorous systematic literature searches and literature reviews were performed using standardized methods. Results: Newly described benefits of physical activity include reduced risk of excessive weight gain in children and adults, incidence of 6 types of cancer, and fall-related injuries in older people. Physical activity is associated with enhanced cognitive function and mental health across the life span, plus improved mental health and physical function. There is no threshold that must be exceeded before benefits begin to accrue; the accrual is most rapid for the least active individuals. Sedentary time is directly associated with elevated risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, incident cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and selected cancer sites. A wide range of intervention strategies have demonstrated success in increasing physical activity. Conclusion: The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report provides compelling new evidence to inform physical activity recommendations, practice, and policy.