Aerobic fitness is associated with greater efficiency of the network underlying cognitive control in preadolescent children

Beckman Institute and Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL 61801, USA.
Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 3.36). 12/2011; 199:166-76. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.10.009
Source: PubMed


This study examined whether individual differences in aerobic fitness are associated with differences in activation of cognitive control brain networks in preadolescent children. As expected, children performed worse on a measure of cognitive control compared with a group of young adults. However, individual differences in aerobic fitness were associated with cognitive control performance among children. Lower-fit children had disproportionate performance cost in accuracy with increasing task difficulty, relative to higher-fit children. Brain activation was compared between performance-matched groups of lower- and higher-fit children. Fitness groups differed in brain activity for regions associated with response execution and inhibition, task set maintenance, and top-down regulation. Overall, differing activation patterns coupled with different patterns of brain-behavior correlations suggest an important role of aerobic fitness in modulating task strategy and the efficiency of neural networks that implement cognitive control in preadolescent children.

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Available from: Matthew B Pontifex, Oct 01, 2015
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    • "The observed differences extend to preadolescent children, indicating modulation of this component as a function of age and aerobic fitness in young, middle-aged and older adults (Berchicci et al., 2013, 2014). The aerobic fitness-related modulation of brain function as early as the premotor stage gives further support to the hypothesis, raised by Pontifex et al. (2011) and further developed by Voss et al. (2011), that higher fit children are more likely to engage in proactive cognitive control, while their lower fit counterparts engage a more reactive control strategy. Our results may extend this explanation by adding that higher fit children optimize behavioral responses (i.e., higher fit are more accurated than lower fit) during cognitive control performance proactively , by means of a phasic engagement of cognitive processes for motor preparation prior to the onset of the taskrelevant stimulus (i.e., larger pN in higher than lower fit children). "
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    ABSTRACT: The association between a fit body and a fit brain in children has led to a rise of behavioral and neuroscientific research. Yet, the relation of cardiorespiratory fitness on premotor neurocognitive preparation and early visual processing have received little attention. Here, 41 healthy, lower- and higher-fit preadolescent children were administered a modified version of the Eriksen flanker task while electroencephalography (EEG) and behavioral measures were recorded. Event-related potentials (ERPs) locked to the stimulus onset with an earlier than usual baseline (-900/-800 ms) allowed investigation of both the usual post-stimulus (i.e., the P1, N1 and P2) as well as the pre-stimulus ERPs components, such as the Bereitschaftspotential (BP) and the prefrontal negativity (pN component). At the behavioral level, aerobic fitness was associated response accuracy, with higher-fit children being more accurate than lower-fit children. Fitness-related differences selectively emerged at prefrontal brain regions during response preparation, with larger pN amplitude for higher- than lower-fit children, and at early perceptual stages after stimulus onset, with larger P1 and N1 amplitudes in higher- relative to lower-fit children. Collectively, the results suggest that the benefits of being aerobically fit appear at the stage of cognitive preparation prior to stimulus presentation and the behavioral response during the performance of a task that challenges cognitive control. Further, it is likely that enhanced activity in prefrontal brain areas may improve cognitive control of visuo-motor tasks, allowing for stronger proactive inhibition and larger early allocation of selective attention resources on relevant external stimuli. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
    Neuroscience 04/2015; 298. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2015.04.028 · 3.36 Impact Factor
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    • "During childhood, many white matter tracts increase in estimates of microstructure, in parallel with improvements in cognition (Barnea-Goraly et al., 2005; Muetzel et al., 2008; see Schmithorst and Yuan, 2010, for a review), but there has been little research about individual differences in the structure of these pathways , the plasticity of white matter fibers, or their susceptibility to intervention during development. Given that the size and function of several different gray matter regions differ between higher fit and lower fit children (Hillman et al., 2009; Chaddock et al., 2010a,b; Davis et al., 2011; Pontifex et al., 2011; Voss et al., 2011; Chaddock et al., 2012a), it is possible that white matter microstructure that connects gray matter areas also differs as a function of aerobic fitness. In support of such a hypothesis, higher aerobic fitness levels and participation in physical activity are positively associated with white matter structure in older adults (Colcombe et al., 2006; Marks et al., 2007; Johnson et al., 2012; Voss et al., 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Aerobic fitness has been found to play a positive role in brain and cognitive health of children. Yet, many of the neural biomarkers related to aerobic fitness remain unknown. Here, using diffusion tensor imaging, we demonstrated that higher aerobic fitness was related to greater estimates of white matter microstructure in children. Higher fit 9- and 10-year-old children showed greater fractional anisotropy (FA) in sections of the corpus callosum, corona radiata, and superior longitudinal fasciculus, compared to lower fit children. The FA effects were primarily characterized by aerobic fitness differences in radial diffusivity, thereby raising the possibility that estimates of myelination may vary as a function of individual differences in fitness during childhood. White matter structure may be another potential neural mechanism of aerobic fitness that assists in efficient communication between gray matter regions as well as the integration of regions into networks.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 08/2014; 8:584. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00584 · 2.99 Impact Factor
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    • "Furthermore, only a few studies on children have combined cognitive testing with brain imaging to examine how physical activity and aerobic fitness relate to brain processes of enhanced cognitive function (Hillman et al., 2011). Recent evidence from the few brain imaging studies published so far suggest reduced neural activity in the prefrontal cortex together with improved cognitive function in children with higher aerobic fitness levels (Chaddock et al., 2011; Voss et al., 2011). These findings are in agreement with studies comparing adult's with children's cognitive control capacities demonstrating reduced activity in the frontal cortex of adults coupled with enhanced cognitive performance (see e.g., Diamond, 2006; Bunge and Crone, 2009). "
    Frontiers in Neuroscience 06/2014; 8:143. DOI:10.3389/fnins.2014.00143 · 3.66 Impact Factor
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