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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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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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Judy L. Van Raalte, Allen E. Cornelius, Britton W. Brewer and Stephen J. Hatten

Although a number of studies have demonstrated the effects of self-talk on sport performance, the research literature on the antecedents of self-talk in competitive sport is sparse. The purpose of this study was to examine both the antecedents and the consequences of self-talk during competitive tennis performance. Eighteen adult tournament players were observed during United States Tennis Association–sanctioned matches. Players’ audible self-talk, observable gestures, and tennis scores were recorded using the Self-Talk and Gestures Rating Scale (Van Raalte, Brewer, Rivera, & Petitpas, 1994b). Results indicated that all players used observable self-talk and gestures during their matches. Furthermore, for all players, match circumstances (e.g., point outcome, serving status) predicted the use of negative self-talk. Positive and instructional self-talk were predicted by match circumstances for some players. The results suggest that match circumstances contribute to the generation of self-talk and provide useful information for researchers interested in better understanding the antecedents of self-talk.

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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.

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Phillip D. Tomporowski and Michel Audiffren

Thirty-one young (mean age = 20.8 years) and 30 older (mean age = 71.5 years) men and women categorized as physically active (n = 30) or inactive (n = 31) performed an executive processing task while standing, treadmill walking at a preferred pace, and treadmill walking at a faster pace. Dual-task interference was predicted to negatively impact older adults’ cognitive flexibility as measured by an auditory switch task more than younger adults; further, participants’ level of physical activity was predicted to mitigate the relation. For older adults, treadmill walking was accompanied by significantly more rapid response times and reductions in local- and mixed-switch costs. A speed-accuracy tradeoff was observed in which response errors increased linearly as walking speed increased, suggesting that locomotion under dual-task conditions degrades the quality of older adults’ cognitive flexibility. Participants’ level of physical activity did not influence cognitive test 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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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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Jennifer L. Etnier, Jeffrey D. Labban, William B. Karper, Laurie Wideman, Aaron T. Piepmeier, Chia-Hao Shih, Michael Castellano, Lauren M. Williams, Se-Yun Park, Vincent C. Henrich, William N. Dudley and Kelli L. Rulison

Physical activity is predictive of better cognitive performance and lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The apolipoprotein E gene (APOE) is a susceptibility gene for AD with the e4 allele being associated with a greater risk of AD. Cross-sectional and prospective research shows that physical activity is predictive of better cognitive performance for those at greater genetic risk for AD. However, the moderating role of APOE on the effects of a physical activity intervention on cognitive performance has not been examined. The purpose of this manuscript is to justify the need for such research and to describe the design, methods, and recruitment tactics used in the conductance of a study designed to provide insight as to the extent to which cognitive benefits resulting from an 8-month physical activity program are differentiated by APOE e4 status. The effectiveness of the recruitment strategies and the feasibility of recruiting APOE e4 carriers are discussed.

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Jennifer J. Heisz and Ana Kovacevic

Age-related changes in the brain can compromise cognitive function. However, in some cases, the brain is able to functionally reorganize to compensate for some of this loss. The present paper reviews the benefits of exercise on executive functions in older adults and discusses a potential mechanism through which exercise may change the way the brain processes information for better cognitive outcomes. Specifically, older adults who are more physically active demonstrate a shift toward local neural processing that is associated with better executive functions. We discuss the use of neural complexity as a sensitive measure of the neural network plasticity that is enhanced through exercise. We conclude by highlighting the future work needed to improve exercise prescriptions that help older adults maintain their cognitive and physical functions for longer into their lifespan.