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Jeremy C. Young, Nicholas G. Dowell, Peter W. Watt, Naji Tabet and Jennifer M. Rusted

While there is evidence that age-related changes in cognitive performance and brain structure can be offset by increased exercise, little is known about the impact long-term high-effort endurance exercise has on these functions. In a cross-sectional design with 12-month follow-up, we recruited older adults engaging in high-effort endurance exercise over at least 20 years, and compared their cognitive performance and brain structure with a nonsedentary control group similar in age, sex, education, IQ, and lifestyle factors. Our findings showed no differences on measures of speed of processing, executive function, incidental memory, episodic memory, working memory, or visual search for older adults participating in long-term high-effort endurance exercise, when compared without confounds to nonsedentary peers. On tasks that engaged significant attentional control, subtle differences emerged. On indices of brain structure, long-term exercisers displayed higher white matter axial diffusivity than their age-matched peers, but this did not correlate with indices of cognitive performance.

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Laura Pomportes, Jeanick Brisswalter, Arnaud Hays and Karen Davranche

Purpose: To investigate the effect of ingesting carbohydrate (CHO), caffeine  (CAF), and a guarana complex (GUAc) during a running exercise on cognitive performance, rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and shooting performance in high-level modern pentathlon athletes. Methods: A total of 10 athletes completed 4 counterbalanced sessions within a 2-wk period, corresponding to ingestions of CHO (30 g), GUAc (300 mg), CAF (200 mg), or placebo. The exercise involved a 40-min run on a treadmill at a steady speed, previously determined as a “somewhat hard” exercise (RPE 13). Shooting and cognitive performance (Simon task) were assessed in 3 phases: before exercise and ingestion, before exercise and after half ingestion, and after exercise and full ingestion. Drinks were consumed 40 min (250 mL) and 5 min (125 mL) prior to exercise and after 20 min of running (125 mL). RPE was assessed at 10-min intervals during exercise. Results: There was an interaction between drink and exercise on mean reaction time (P = .01, ηp2=.41) and a drink effect on RPE (P = .01, ηp2=.15). CHO, CAF, and GUAc enhanced the speed of information processing after exercise (P = .003, P = .004, and P = .04, respectively), but only CAF and GUAc decreased RPE (P = .002 and P = .02, respectively). Conclusion: The results highlight a beneficial effect of nutritional supplements on information processing and RPE. This finding is particularly interesting as decision-making processes are crucial in the performance of many sports.

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Jennifer L. Etnier and Daniel M. Landers

The primary purpose of this study was to examine differences in performance on fluid and crystallized intelligence tasks as a function of age and fitness. A secondary purpose was to examine the influence of age and fitness on the beneficial effects that practice has on both performance and retention on these tasks. Fitness was assessed in 41 older and 42 younger participants who were then randomly assigned to either experimental or control conditions. Participants performed repeated trials on two cognitive tasks during acquisition and retention, with the experimental group practicing for 100 trials and the control group practicing for 20 trials. Older participants performed better than younger participants on the crystallized intelligence task: however, younger participants performed better than older participants on the fluid intelligence task. On the fluid intelligence task, older fit participants performed better than older unfit participants. Learning did occur on the fluid task and differed as a function of age and fitness. Learning did not occur on the crystallized task.

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Margie E. Lachman, Shevaun D. Neupert, Rosanna Bertrand and Alan M. Jette

The authors examined whether resistance training has an effect on working memory span. Participants included 210 community-residing older adults with at least one disability from the Strong for Life program, a randomized controlled trial that examined the effects of home-based resistance exercise. Memory was assessed with the WAIS backward digit span at baseline and 3 and 6 months into the intervention. Although there were no differences between the experimental treatment and control groups in average levels of memory change, within the treatment group change in resistance level during the intervention was a significant predictor of memory change, controlling for age, education, sex, and disability level. The results suggest that strength training can benefit memory among older adults, especially when using higher resistance levels.

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Spyridoula Vazou and Ann Smiley-Oyen

Classroom-based physical activity is a new approach aiming to improve both physical activity levels and academic achievement. This study investigated the acute effect of a 10-min bout of aerobic physical activity integrated with math practice, compared with a seated math practice, on executive function and enjoyment among normal-weight (n = 24) and overweight children (n = 11). Thirty-five typically developing prepubescent children (10.55 ± 0.74 years) completed a session of physical activity integrated with math practice and a seated math practice session in counterbalanced order. Results showed that following integrated physical activity, the response time in the Standard Flanker improved more than after seated practice. Among the overweight children, physical activity benefitted performance in the Standard Flanker by preventing the decline associated with seated practice. Children enjoyed the physical activity practice more than the seated practice. These findings suggest that integrating physical activity with academic instruction may be a realistic strategy for promoting physical activity because it may facilitate, not antagonize, executive function.

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Koen Put, Marcus V.C. Baldo, André M. Cravo, Johan Wagemans and Werner F. Helsen

In association football, the flash-lag effect appears to be a viable explanation for erroneous offside decision making. Due to this spatiotemporal illusion, assistant referees (ARs) perceive the player who receives the ball ahead of his real position. In this experiment, a laboratory decision-making task was used to demonstrate that international top-class ARs, compared with amateur soccer players, do not have superior perceptual sensitivity. They clearly modify their decision criterion according to the contextual needs and, therefore, show a higher response bias toward not responding to the stimulus, in particular in the most difficult situations. Thus, international ARs show evidence for response-level compensation, resulting in a specific cost (i.e., more misses), which clearly reflects the use of particular (cognitive) strategies. In summary, it appears that experts in offside decision making can be distinguished from novices more on the cognitive or decision-making level than on the perceptual level.

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José M. Cancela, M Helena Vila Suárez,, Jamine Vasconcelos, Ana Lima and Carlos Ayán

This study evaluates the impact of Brain Gym (BG) training in active older adults. Eighty-five participants were assigned to four training groups: BG (n = 18), BG plus water-based exercise (n = 18), land-based exercise (n = 30), and land plus water-based exercise (n = 19). The effects of the programs on the attention and memory functions were assessed by means of the symbol digit modality test. The two-min step and the eight-foot up-and-go tests were used to evaluate their impact on fitness level. No program had a significant influence on the participant’s cognitive performance, while different effects on the sample’ fitness levels were observed. These findings suggest that the effects of BG on the cognitive performance and fitness level of active older adults are similar to those obtained after the practice of a traditional exercise program. Whether BG is performed in isolation or combined with other exercise programs seems to have no influence on such effects.

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Fabien D. Legrand, William M. Bertucci and Joanne Hudson

A crossover experiment was performed to determine whether age and sex, or their interaction, affect the impact of acute aerobic exercise on vigor-activity (VA). We also tested whether changes in VA mediated exercise effects on performance on various cognitive tasks. Sixty-eight physically inactive volunteers participated in exercise and TV-watching control conditions. They completed the VA subscale of the Profile of Mood States immediately before and 2 min after the intervention in each condition. They also performed the Trail Making Test 3 min after the intervention in each condition. Statistical analyses produced a condition × age × sex interaction characterized by a higher mean VA gain value in the exercise condition (compared with the VA gain value in the TV-watching condition) for young female participants only. In addition, the mediational analyses revealed that changes in VA fully mediated the effects of exercise on TMT-Part A performance.

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Kelly Birch, Merritt ten Hope, Michael Malek-Ahmadi, Kathy O’Connor, Sharon Schofield, David Coon and Walter Nieri

Previous research has found that increased physical activity may provide a protective effect on depression status; however, these studies do not account for cognitive function. This study’s aim was to determine whether cognitive function mediates the association between physical activity depression status in older adults. Data from 501 older adults were used for this analysis. Physical activity had a significant protective effect on depression (OR = 0.761, 95% CI [0.65, 0.89], p = .001). Adjusted analysis yielded an attenuated association (OR = 0.81, 95% CI [0.69, 0.95], p = .01) with a significant interaction for physical activity and cognitive function (OR = 0.991, 95% CI [0.985, 0.997], p = .005). MoCA performance also had a significant mediating effect on the relationship between physical activity and depression status (p = .04). These findings suggest that cognitive function is associated with, and does mediate, the relationship between physical activity and depression status.

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Anneke G. van der Niet, Joanne Smith, Jaap Oosterlaan, Erik J.A. Scherder, Esther Hartman and Chris Visscher

The objective of this study was to analyze the effects of a physical activity program including both aerobic exercise and cognitively engaging physical activities on children’s physical fitness and executive functions. Children from 3 primary schools (aged 8–12 years) were recruited. A quasi-experimental design was used. Children in the intervention group (n = 53; 19 boys, 34 girls) participated in a 22-week physical activity program for 30 min during lunch recess, twice a week. Children in the control group (n = 52; 32 boys, 20 girls) followed their normal lunch routine. Aerobic fitness, speed and agility, and muscle strength were assessed using the Eurofit test battery. Executive functions were assessed using tasks measuring inhibition (Stroop test), working memory (Visual Memory Span test, Digit Span test), cognitive flexibility (Trailmaking test), and planning (Tower of London). Children in the intervention group showed significantly greater improvement than children in the control group on the Stroop test and Digit Span test, reflecting enhanced inhibition and verbal working memory skills, respectively. No differences were found on any of the physical fitness variables. A physical activity program including aerobic exercise and cognitively engaging physical activities can enhance aspects of executive functioning in primary school children.