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Benjamin A. Sibley and Jennifer L. Etnier

The purpose of this study was to quantitatively combine and examine the results of studies pertaining to physical activity and cognition in children. Studies meeting the inclusion criteria were coded based on design and descriptive characteristics, subject characteristics, activity characteristics, and cognitive assessment method. Effect sizes (ESs) were calculated for each study and an overall ES and average ESs relative to moderator variables were then calculated. ESs (n = 125) from 44 studies were included in the analysis. The overall ES was 0.32 (SD = 0.27), which was significantly different from zero. Significant moderator variables included publication status, subject age, and type of cognitive assessment. As a result of this statistical review of the literature, it is concluded that there is a significant positive relationship between physical activity and cognitive functioning in children.

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A. Justine Dowd, Toni Schmader, Benjamin D. Sylvester, Mary E. Jung, Bruno D. Zumbo, Luc J. Martin and Mark R. Beauchamp

The objective of the studies presented in this paper was to examine whether the need to belong can be used to enhance exercise cognitions and behavior. Two studies examined the effectiveness of framing exercise as a means of boosting social skills (versus health benefits) for self-regulatory efficacy, exercise intentions, and (in Study 2) exercise behavior. In Study 1, inactive adults primed to feel a lack of social belonging revealed that this manipulation led to greater self-regulatory efficacy (but not exercise intentions). In Study 2, involving a sample of inactive lonely adults, all participants reported engaging in more exercise; however, those in the social skills condition also reported a greater sense of belonging than those in the health benefits comparison condition. These findings provide an important basis for developing physical activity interventions that might be particularly relevant for people at risk for feeling socially isolated or lonely.

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Caterina Pesce

In exercise and cognition research, few studies have investigated whether and how the qualitative aspects of physical exercise may impact cognitive performance in the short or long term. This commentary, after recalling the evidence on the “dose-response” relationship, shifts the focus to intersections between different research areas that are proposed to shed light on how qualitative exercise characteristics can be used to obtain cognitive benefits. As concerns the acute exercise area, this commentary highlights the applied relevance of developmental and aging studies investigating the effects of exercise bouts differing in movement task complexity and cognitive demands. As regards the chronic exercise area, potential links to research on cognitive expertise in sport, functional ability in aging, and life skills training during development are discussed. “Gross-motor cognitive training” is proposed as a key concept with relevant implications for intervention strategies in childhood and older adulthood.

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Daniel M. Landers, Shawn M. Arent and Rafer S. Lutz

Recent research has demonstrated transient affective changes and impairment of short-term memory in college wrestlers as a result of rapid weight loss (RWL) of at least 5% body weight prior to competition. This study examined the effects of RWL on cognition and affect in high school wrestlers. Wrestlers were considered to be engaging in RWL if they were losing over 5% of body weight (n = 14). Those losing less than 1% of body weight (n = 14) were considered maintainers and served as the control group. Both groups were given a battery of tests assessing cognitive performance (Trail Making Tests A & B, Stroop color-word test, Wechsler digit span, and choice reaction/movement time) and affective state (PANAS) at normal weight (5 to 10 days prior to competition) and again 8 to 12 hours prior to weigh-in. Results indicated an average loss of 4.68 kg in the RWL group and 0.29 kg in the control group. A group-by-time MANOVA and univariate follow-up tests indicated a significant group-by-time interaction for positive affect, p < .014, with the RWL wrestlers having less positive affect than the control group just prior to weigh-in. However, none of the cognitive performance tests demonstrated significant differential changes for RWL vs. control groups, p > .10. Given the control for competition effects in the present study, results suggest there are affective disturbances, but not cognitive impairments, associated with RWL of at least 5% body weight in high school wrestlers.

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Robert H. Wood, Rafael Reyes-Alvarez, Brian Maraj, Kristi L. Metoyer and Michael A. Welsch

It has been suggested that physical and cognitive functions are associated with health-related quality of life (HRQL). Previous work examining the relationship between physical ability and HRQL is equivocal, and information about cognitive function in relation to HRQL is largely restricted to people with cognitive impairments. We investigated the relationships of physical ability and cognitive performance to HRQL in 44 older adults (72-93 years). The results suggest significant relationships between the endurance item of the AAHPERD test and the physical mobility and pain components of HRQL and between AAHPERD agility scores and the physical mobility component of HRQL. Visual simple-reaction time and the backward digit-span memory test were found to be related to physical mobility. The subject-performed-tasks memory test was related to the social component of HRQL. These data support the use of the AAHPERD test for characterizing physical ability of older adults as it relates to HRQL and identify specific cognitive support measures that reflect the relationship between cognition and HRQL in older adults.

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Jennifer L. Etnier, Laurie Wideman, Jeffrey D. Labban, Aaron T. Piepmeier, Daniel M. Pendleton, Kelly K. Dvorak and Katie Becofsky

Acute exercise benefits cognition, and some evidence suggests that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays a role in this effect. The purpose of this study was to explore the dose–response relationship between exercise intensity, memory, and BDNF. Young adults completed 3 exercise sessions at different intensities relative to ventilator threshold (Vt) (VO2max, Vt – 20%, Vt + 20%). For each session, participants exercised for approximately 30 min. Following exercise, they performed the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT) to assess short-term memory, learning, and long-term memory recall. Twenty-four hours later, they completed the RAVLT recognition trial, which provided another measure of long-term memory. Blood was drawn before exercise, immediately postexercise, and after the 30-min recall test. Results indicated that long-term memory as assessed after the 24-hr delay differed as a function of exercise intensity with the largest benefits observed following maximal intensity exercise. BDNF data showed a significant increase in response to exercise; however, there were no differences relative to exercise intensity and there were no significant associations between BDNF and memory. Future research is warranted so that we can better understand how to use exercise to benefit cognitive performance.

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James Faulkner, Danielle Lambrick, Sebastian Kaufmann and Lee Stoner

Background:

The purpose of this study was to assess the acute effects of posture (upright vs recumbent) during moderate-intensity cycle exercise on executive function and prefrontal cortex oxygenation in young healthy adults.

Methods:

Seventeen physically active men (24.6 ± 4.3 years) completed 2 30-minute submaximal exercise tests (conditions: upright and recumbent cycle ergometry). Executive function was assessed using the “color” and “word” Stroop task, preexercise (resting) and postexercise. Regional oxygen saturation (rSO2) to the prefrontal cortex was continuously monitored using near-infrared spectroscopy.

Results:

Significant improvements in executive function (Stroop color and word tasks) were observed after 30 minutes of exercise for both upright and recumbent cycling (P < .05). However, there were no differences in executive function between cycling conditions (P > .05). A significant increase in rSO2 was recorded immediately postexercise compared with preexercise for both conditions (P < .05), with a trend (P = .06) for higher peak rSO2 following recumbent cycling compared with upright cycling (81.9% ± 6.5% cf 79.7% ± 9.3%, respectively).

Conclusions:

Although submaximal cycling exercise acutely improves cognitive performance and prefrontal oxygenation, changes in cognition are not perceived to be dependent on body posture in young, healthy men.

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Daniel Gould, Robert C. Eklund and Susan A. Jackson

This study involved extensive interviews with all 20 members of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team about their performances in the Seoul Olympics. Qualitative research methodology and analyses were employed to acquire and preserve rich representations of these experiences. Mental preparation strategies, precompetitive cognition, and affect were examined by having the wrestlers respond to a series of questions about their all-time best match, worst Olympic match, and most crucial Olympic match. Considerable consistency was found across wrestlers’ responses regarding all-time best and worst Olympic matches whereas striking differences were found between the best and worst matches. For example, before best matches, wrestlers followed mental preparation plans and routines and were extremely confident, totally focused, and optimally aroused. They also focused on clear tactical strategies. Before worst matches, wrestlers were not confident, had inappropriate feeling states and experienced many task-irrelevant and negative thoughts, and deviated from preparation plans. These results are consistent with other research with Olympic athletes and suggest that precompetitive states play a critical role in competitive performance.

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Naiman A. Khan and Charles H. Hillman

Physical inactivity has been shown to increase the risk for several chronic diseases across the lifespan. However, the impact of physical activity and aerobic fitness on childhood cognitive and brain health has only recently gained attention. The purposes of this article are to: 1) highlight the recent emphasis for increasing physical activity and aerobic fitness in children’s lives for cognitive and brain health; 2) present aspects of brain development and cognitive function that are susceptible to physical activity intervention; 3) review neuroimaging studies examining the cross-sectional and experimental relationships between aerobic fitness and executive control function; and 4) make recommendations for future research. Given that the human brain is not fully developed until the third decade of life, preadolescence is characterized by changes in brain structure and function underlying aspects of cognition including executive control and relational memory. Achieving adequate physical activity and maintaining aerobic fitness in childhood may be a critical guideline to follow for physical as well as cognitive and brain health.

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Juliana Hotta Ansai, Larissa Pires de Andrade, Marcele Stephanie de Souza Buto, Verena de Vassimon Barroso, Ana Claudia Silva Farche, Paulo Giusti Rossi and Anielle Cristhine de Medeiros Takahashi

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of the addition of a dual task to multicomponent training on cognition of active older adults. Eighty physically active older adults were divided into an intervention group (IG) and a control group (CG). Both groups performed multicomponent training over 12 weeks. The IG simultaneously performed exercises and cognitive tasks. The Mini-Mental State Examination, the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, and the Clock Drawing Test were used for cognitive assessments. The Timed Up and Go Test associated with a cognitive task was used for dual-task assessment. Significant interactions were not observed between groups in terms of the cognitive variables or the dual-task performance. An interaction was observed only for Timed Up and Go Test performance, which was better in the CG than in the IG. Active older adults showed no improvement in cognition following the addition of the dual task to the multicomponent training.