Drollette, E. S., Komisarz, C. E., Scudder, M. R., Raine, L. B., & Hillman, C. H. (2013). Modulation of brain function in children during and after exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 45(5), Supplement abstract number 1559.

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This study examined the effects of moderate cycling (60% of maximum heart rate) on behavioral and neuroelectric outcomes of cognitive control in 9- to 10-year-old children. Event-related brain potential analysis of 40 children employed a modified no-go/flanker task on two separate days (one for exercise, the other for rest). Task performance and event-related brain potentials were measured before, during, after, and 40 minutes following cycling or resting (on the bike without pedaling). The task involved three types of equiprobable trials (i.e., congruent, incongruent, no-go) that necessitated a behavioral response for congruent and incongruent trials and response inhibition for no-go trials. Cycling and rest days were counterbalanced across Ss.

Cycling resulted in no change in task performance relative to seated-rest across all trials and time-periods. Increased P3 amplitude was observed during, after, and 40 minutes following exercise over the parietal scalp region compared to rest. Additionally, P3 amplitude was largest immediately following exercise compared to during and 40 minutes after exercise.

Implication. Children effectively maintain cognitive control performance both during and following exercise relative to rest, suggesting the maintenance of cognitive function during a dual-task environment. This means that children are more mentally active during work and rest than many believe based on adult experiences. Adults have learned a skill of dissociation that takes their minds off tasks-at-hand. Children are more task-oriented all the time and so coaching pre-pubertal youngsters should look to making the work and rest experiences of sports mentally productive and relevant. Immediately upon completion of a task is when children are most mentally active and it is at that time when feedback should be provided about the just-terminated exercise.

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