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A. Mark Williams, Joan Vickers and Sergio Rodrigues

Processing efficiency theory predicts that anxiety reduces the processing capacity of working memory and has detrimental effects on performance. When tasks place little demand on working memory, the negative effects of anxiety can be avoided by increasing effort. Although performance efficiency decreases, there is no change in performance effectiveness. When tasks impose a heavy demand on working memory, however, anxiety leads to decrements in efficiency and effectiveness. These presumptions were tested using a modified table tennis task that placed low (LWM) and high (HWM) demands on working memory. Cognitive anxiety was manipulated through a competitive ranking structure and prize money. Participants’ accuracy in hitting concentric circle targets in predetermined sequences was taken as a measure of performance effectiveness, while probe reaction time (PRT), perceived mental effort (RSME), visual search data, and arm kinematics were recorded as measures of efficiency. Anxiety had a negative effect on performance effectiveness in both LWM and HWM tasks. There was an increase in frequency of gaze and in PRT and RSME values in both tasks under high vs. low anxiety conditions, implying decrements in performance efficiency. However, participants spent more time tracking the ball in the HWM task and employed a shorter tau margin when anxious. Although anxiety impaired performance effectiveness and efficiency, decrements in efficiency were more pronounced in the HWM task than in the LWM task, providing support for processing efficiency theory.

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Christiano Robles Rodrigues Alves, Bruno Gualano, Pollyana Pereira Takao, Paula Avakian, Rafael Mistura Fernandes, Diego Morine and Monica Yuri Takito

The aim of this study was to compare the effects of acute aerobic and strength exercises on selected executive functions. A counterbalanced, crossover, randomized trial was performed. Forty-two healthy women were randomly submitted to three different conditions: (1) aerobic exercise, (2) strength exercise, and (3) control condition. Before and after each condition, executive functions were measured by the Stroop Test and the Trail Making Test. Following the aerobic and strength sessions, the time to complete the Stroop “non-color word” and “color word” condition was lower when compared with that of the control session. The performance in the Trail Making Test was unchanged. In conclusion, both acute aerobic and strength exercises improve the executive functions. Nevertheless, this positive effect seems to be task and executive function dependent.

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Sandra A. Billinger, Eric D. Vidoni, Jill K. Morris, John P. Thyfault and Jeffrey M. Burns

Positive physiologic and cognitive responses to aerobic exercise have resulted in a proposed cardiorespiratory (CR) fitness hypothesis in which fitness gains drive changes leading to cognitive benefit. The purpose of this study was to directly assess the CR fitness hypothesis. Using data from an aerobic exercise trial, we examined individuals who completed cardiopulmonary and cognitive testing at baseline and 26 weeks. Change in cognitive test performance was not related to CR fitness change (r 2 = .06, p = .06). However, in the subset of individuals who gave excellent effort during exercise testing, change in cognitive test performance was related to CR fitness change (r 2 = .33, p < .01). This was largely due to change in the cognitive domain of attention (r 2 = .36, p < .01). The magnitude of change was not explained by duration of exercise. Our findings support further investigation of the CR fitness hypothesis and mechanisms by which physiologic adaptation may drive cognitive change.

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Kara K. Palmer, Matthew W. Miller and Leah E. Robinson

A growing body of research has illuminated beneficial effects of a single bout of physical activity (i.e., acute exercise) on cognitive function in school-age children. However, the influence of acute exercise on preschoolers’ cognitive function has not been reported. To address this shortcoming, the current study examined the effects of a 30-min bout of exercise on preschoolers’ cognitive function. Preschoolers’ cognitive function was assessed following a single bout of exercise and a single sedentary period. Results revealed that, after engaging in a bout of exercise, preschoolers exhibited markedly better ability to sustain attention, relative to after being sedentary (p = .006, partial eta square = .400). Based on these findings, providing exercise opportunities appears to enhance preschoolers’ cognitive function.

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John R. Biggan, Forest Melton, Michael A. Horvat, Mark Ricard, David Keller and Christopher T. Ray

The understanding of prefrail and nonfrail older adults’ postural control with and without increased environmental and cognitive stress is imperative to the development of targeted interventions to decrease fall risk within these populations. Thirty-eight individuals participated in this study. Postural control testing included the Sensory Organization Test (SOT) on a NeuroCom EquiTest. Cognitive and environmental load testing was performed during Condition 6 of the SOT. Though there were no group differences on composite equilibrium score (p = .06), the cognitive task (Stroop task) impaired equilibrium scores more than the auditory or visual distracter tasks (p < .05 and p < .01) for both groups. These results suggest that both prefrail and nonfrail older adults’ postural control is reduced in demanding environments. Given these findings, the need for multimodal exercise interventions to target both physical and cognitive factors is apparent.

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Chun-Chih Wang, Chien-Heng Chu, I-Hua Chu, Kuei-Hui Chan and Yu-Kai Chang

This study was designed to examine the modulation of executive functions during acute exercise and to determine whether exercise intensity moderates this relationship. Eighty college-aged adults were recruited and randomly assigned into one of the four following groups: control, 30%, 50%, and 80% heart rate reserve. The Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) was administered during each intervention. The results indicated that the majority of the WCST performances were impaired in the high exercise intensity group relative to those of the other three groups, whereas similar performance rates were maintained in the low- and moderate-intensity groups. These findings suggest that transient hypofrontality occurs during high-intensity exercise, but not during low- and moderate-intensity exercises. Future research aimed at employing the dual-mode theory, and applying the reticular-activating hypofrontality model is recommended to further the current knowledge.

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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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Mirko Schmidt, Katja Jäger, Fabienne Egger, Claudia M. Roebers and Achim Conzelmann

Although the positive effects of different kinds of physical activity (PA) on cognitive functioning have already been demonstrated in a variety of studies, the role of cognitive engagement in promoting children’s executive functions is still unclear. The aim of the current study was therefore to investigate the effects of two qualitatively different chronic PA interventions on executive functions in primary school children. Children (N = 181) aged between 10 and 12 years were assigned to either a 6-week physical education program with a high level of physical exertion and high cognitive engagement (team games), a physical education program with high physical exertion but low cognitive engagement (aerobic exercise), or to a physical education program with both low physical exertion and low cognitive engagement (control condition). Executive functions (updating, inhibition, shifting) and aerobic fitness (multistage 20-m shuttle run test) were measured before and after the respective condition. Results revealed that both interventions (team games and aerobic exercise) have a positive impact on children’s aerobic fitness (4–5% increase in estimated VO2max). Importantly, an improvement in shifting performance was found only in the team games and not in the aerobic exercise or control condition. Thus, the inclusion of cognitive engagement in PA seems to be the most promising type of chronic intervention to enhance executive functions in children, providing further evidence for the importance of the qualitative aspects of PA.

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Yu-Kai Chang and Jennifer L. Etnier

The purpose of this study was to explore the dose-response relationship between resistance exercise intensity and cognitive performance. Sixty-eight participants were randomly assigned into control, 40%, 70%, or 100% of 10-repetition maximal resistance exercise groups. Participants were tested on Day 1 (baseline) and on Day 2 (measures were taken relative to performance of the treatment). Heart rate, ratings of perceived exertion, self-reported arousal, and affect were assessed on both days. Cognitive performance was assessed on Day 1 and before and following treatment on Day 2. Results from regression analyses indicated that there is a significant linear effect of exercise intensity on information processing speed, and a significant quadratic trend for exercise intensity on executive function. Thus, there is a dose-response relationship between the intensity of resistance exercise and cognitive performance such that high-intensity exercise benefits speed of processing, but moderate intensity exercise is most beneficial for executive function.

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Clare MacMahon, Linda Schücker, Norbert Hagemann and Bernd Strauss

This study investigated the effect of cognitive fatigue on physical performance in a paced running task. Experienced runners (n = 20) performed two 3,000-m runs on an indoor track, once after cognitive fatigue, and once under nonfatigued conditions. Completion times were significantly slower in the cognitive fatigue condition (M = 12:11,88 min, SD = 0:54,26), compared with the control condition (M = 11:58,56 min, SD = 0:48,39), F(1, 19) = 8.58, p = .009, eta2p = .31. There were no differences in heart rate, t(17) = 0.13, p > .05, blood lactate levels, t(19) = 1.19, p > .05, or ratings of perceived exertion F(1, 19) = .001, p 3 .05. While previous research has examined the impact of cognitive tasks on physical tasks, this is the first study to examine a self-paced physical task, showing that cognitive activity indeed contributes significantly to overall performance. Specifically, cognitive fatigue increased the perception of exertion, leading to lesser performance on the running task.