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The Acute Effects of Yoga on Executive Function

Neha Gothe, Matthew B. Pontifex, Charles Hillman, and Edward McAuley


Despite an increase in the prevalence of yoga exercise, research focusing on the relationship between yoga exercise and cognition is limited. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of an acute yoga exercise session, relative to aerobic exercise, on cognitive performance.


A repeated measures design was employed where 30 female college-aged participants (Mean age = 20.07, SD = 1.95) completed 3 counterbalanced testing sessions: a yoga exercise session, an aerobic exercise session, and a baseline assessment. The flanker and n-back tasks were used to measure cognitive performance.


Results showed that cognitive performance after the yoga exercise bout was significantly superior (ie, shorter reaction times, increased accuracy) as compared with the aerobic and baseline conditions for both inhibition and working memory tasks. The aerobic and baseline performance was not significantly different, contradicting some of the previous findings in the acute aerobic exercise and cognition literature.


These findings are discussed relative to the need to explore the effects of other nontraditional modes of exercise such as yoga on cognition and the importance of time elapsed between the cessation of the exercise bout and the initiation of cognitive assessments in improving task performance.

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Does Walking Mitigate Affective and Cognitive Responses to Social Exclusion?

Anthony G. Delli Paoli, Alan L. Smith, and Matthew B. Pontifex

Social exclusion can produce harmful affective and cognitive responses that undermine healthy functioning. Physical activity is known to have acute affective and cognitive effects that are adaptive and therefore may mitigate these responses. The purpose of this study was to assess walking as a strategy to reduce the effects of social exclusion on affect and working memory performance. Healthy female college students (N = 96, M age = 19.2 ± 0.8 years) were randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions: (a) sedentary plus neutral feedback, (b) sedentary plus exclusion feedback, (c) walking plus neutral feedback, or (d) walking plus exclusion feedback. Pre- and postactivity and pre- and postfeedback measures of affect and working memory performance were recorded. Excluded participants had a significant negative shift in affect following feedback, p < .05. Those who were sedentary prior to exclusion had lower affect scores following exclusion than the walking plus exclusion and neutral feedback conditions, p < .05. There were no direct effects of walking or social exclusion on working memory. However, perceptions of being ignored predicted smaller improvements in working memory performance for participants who were sedentary prior to exclusion, p < .05. The findings suggest that walking prior to social exclusion may mitigate the affective response to social exclusion as well as social perceptions that can undermine working memory. More broadly, this work supports continued examination of physical activity as a potential strategy for helping individuals cope with negative social experiences.

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The Influence of Pitch-by-Pitch Feedback on Neural Activity and Pitch Perception in Baseball

Jason R. Themanson, Nicole J. Bing, Brad E. Sheese, and Matthew B. Pontifex

This study was designed to examine the influence of performance feedback on task performance and neural activity in expert and novice baseball players. Participants completed a video task to determine whether thrown pitches were balls or strikes while their neural activity was recorded. After each pitch, participants were given feedback on the accuracy of their choice. Results indicated that college players exhibited larger frontocentral positivity amplitudes compared with novices, regardless of feedback type. Furthermore, results showed that the feedback-related negativity was related to response accuracy following incorrect feedback for college players, with larger feedback-related negativity amplitude associated with greater response accuracy. This relationship is independent of any relations between overall task accuracy and either feedback-related negativity amplitude or response accuracy following incorrect feedback. These results indicate that the nature of neural activity during pitch feedback for college baseball players can inform and influence participants’ subsequent pitch-location performance.

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Reliability and Validity of Commercially Available Low-Cost Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis

Kerri L. Vasold, Andrew C. Parks, Deanna M.L. Phelan, Matthew B. Pontifex, and James M. Pivarnik

Research comparing portable body composition methods, such as bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), to air displacement plethysmography (ADP) is limited. We assessed reliability and validity of predicting fat-free mass (FFM) by the RJL, Omron, and Tanita BIA machines using ADP via BodPod as a criterion. FFM (kg) was assessed twice in college students (N = 77, 31 males and 46 females; age = 19.1 ± 1.2 years) using ADP, RJL, Omron, and Tanita BIAs. Reliability was assessed using analysis of variance to obtain an intraclass correlation statistic (Rxx ). Validity was assessed using Pearson correlation (r) coefficient. FFM averaged 75.6 ± 9.4 kg in men and 59.8 ± 7.6 kg in women. Reliability was high in both genders RJL (Rxx  = .974–.994), Omron (Rxx  = .933–.993), and Tanita (Rxx  = .921–.991). Validity within males was also high: RJL (r = .935), Omron (r = .942), and Tanita (r = .934), and only slightly lower in females: RJL (r = .924), Omron (r = .897), and Tanita (r = .898). The RJL, Omron, and Tanita BIA machines appear to be both reliable and valid for predicting FFM of male and female college students. Therefore, any of these three BIA devices is appropriate to use for body composition assessment in a healthy adult population.

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Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder-Related Self-Reported Symptoms Are Associated With Elevated Concussion Symptomatology

Lauren E. Bullard, Colt A. Coffman, Jacob J.M. Kay, Jeffrey P. Holloway, Robert D. Moore, and Matthew B. Pontifex

The aim of the present investigation was to provide insight into how postconcussion symptomatology may be altered in individuals exhibiting attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)–related behaviors and examine factors that may be responsible for driving such relationships. A total of 99 individuals were assessed during the subacute phase of concussion recovery. Inattentive symptomatology, but not diagnosis of ADHD, was related to greater concussion-symptom severity and overall symptoms endorsed. Cluster and factor analyses highlighted that the relationship between ADHD symptomatology and concussion symptomatology was not a function of overlapping constructs being assessed (i.e., concussion-related symptomatology was not a proxy of ADHD-related symptomatology). These relationships were not mediated by parental observations of impairments in behaviors associated with executive functioning (i.e., executive dysfunction was not driving the greater concussion-related symptomatology associated with ADHD-related symptomatology). These findings highlight the importance of moving beyond categorical frameworks of ADHD to, instead, consider the continuum of underlying behaviors.

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Aerobic Fitness Unrelated to Acquisition of Spatial Relational Memory in College-Aged Adults

Madison C. Chandler, Amanda L. McGowan, Ford Burles, Kyle E. Mathewson, Claire J. Scavuzzo, and Matthew B. Pontifex

While compelling evidence indicates that poorer aerobic fitness relates to impairments in retrieving information from hippocampal-dependent memory, there is a paucity of research on how aerobic fitness relates to the acquisition of such relational information. Accordingly, the present investigation examined the association between aerobic fitness and the rate of encoding spatial relational memory—assessed using a maximal oxygen consumption test and a spatial configuration task—in a sample of 152 college-aged adults. The findings from this investigation revealed no association between aerobic fitness and the acquisition of spatial relational memory. These findings have implications for how aerobic fitness is characterized with regard to memory, such that aerobic fitness does not appear to relate to the rate of learning spatial–relational information; however, given previously reported evidence, aerobic fitness may be associated with a greater ability to recall relational information from memory.

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Concussion Risk and Recovery in Athletes With Psychostimulant-Treated Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Findings From the NCAA-DOD CARE Consortium

Colt A. Coffman, Brett S. Gunn, Paul F. Pasquina, Michael A. McCrea, Thomas W. McAllister, Steven P. Broglio, Robert D. Moore, and Matthew B. Pontifex

The aim of the present study was to examine the effects of attention–deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) –related psychostimulant use in the context of concussion risk and symptom recovery. Data were obtained from the National Collegiate Athletic Association Department of Defense Grand Alliance Concussion Assessment, Research, and Education (NCAA-DOD CARE) Consortium from 2014 to 2017. Relative to individuals without diagnosed ADHD (i.e., control), both ADHD diagnosis and the combination of ADHD diagnosis and psychostimulant use were associated with a greater risk of incurring a concussive injury. Following a concussive injury, ADHD diagnosis was associated with longer symptom recovery time relative to the control group. However, individuals with ADHD who use psychostimulants did not take longer to resolve symptoms than controls, suggesting that psychostimulants may have a positive influence on recovery. Regardless of time point, ADHD diagnosis was associated with an elevated number of concussion-related symptoms; however, this effect appears mitigated by having used ADHD-related psychostimulants.

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Expert’s Choice: 2018’s Most Exciting Research in the Field of Pediatric Exercise Science

Alon Eliakim, Bareket Falk, Neil Armstrong, Fátima Baptista, David G. Behm, Nitzan Dror, Avery D. Faigenbaum, Kathleen F. Janz, Jaak Jürimäe, Amanda L. McGowan, Dan Nemet, Paolo T. Pianosi, Matthew B. Pontifex, Shlomit Radom-Aizik, Thomas Rowland, and Alex V. Rowlands

This commentary highlights 23 noteworthy publications from 2018, selected by leading scientists in pediatric exercise science. These publications have been deemed as significant or exciting in the field as they (a) reveal a new mechanism, (b) highlight a new measurement tool, (c) discuss a new concept or interpretation/application of an existing concept, or (d) describe a new therapeutic approach or clinical tool in youth. In some cases, findings in adults are highlighted, as they may have important implications in youth. The selected publications span the field of pediatric exercise science, specifically focusing on: aerobic exercise and training; neuromuscular physiology, exercise, and training; endocrinology and exercise; resistance training; physical activity and bone strength; growth, maturation, and exercise; physical activity and cognition; childhood obesity, physical activity, and exercise; pulmonary physiology or diseases, exercise, and training; immunology and exercise; cardiovascular physiology and disease; and physical activity, inactivity, and health.