At present, we have little understanding of the key neurobiological mechanisms which result in enhancements in cognition following a single bout of exercise and how these mechanisms accrue to contribute to more permanent changes in cognitive function over time. Such information is vital for the development of physical activity interventions during development to maximize cognitive health and function. Accordingly, this proposal will begin to address this knowledge gap by using an innovative, multi-disciplinary approach cutting across cognitive neuroscience, educational psychology, and kinesiology to establish an empirical basis for two hypothesized neurobiological mechanisms - resting-state cerebral blood flow and functional neural connectivity - proposed to underlie the beneficial effects of single-bouts of physical activity on inhibitory control during preadolescence. Using a within-participant repeated-measures design, state-of-the-art functional neuroimaging measures of resting-state cerebral blood flow and functional neural connectivity will be assessed in a sample of preadolescent children in relation to changes in behavioral task performance resulting from a single bout of exercise relative to a non-exercise condition during two separate, counterbalanced sessions. The significance of the current proposal is its potential to advance our understanding of acute-exercise induced enhancements in cognition during preadolescence by determining the extent to which previously proposed mechanisms explain variance in behavioral changes in cognition associated with exercise. This proposal represents an initial step in an extended program of research aimed at the development of physical activity interventions to maximize their influence on these neurobiological mechanisms to generate the greatest cognitive enhancement and potentially more rapidly incur the more stable facilitations in cognitive processes associated with chronic physical activity participation. Ultimately, this research effort has the potential to influence education policy by providing evidence-based recommendations for exercise programming in schools. That is, despite our growing understanding of the relation between physical health and mental health; educational institutions are de-valuing the importance of physical activity during the school day through the reduction or elimination of physical activity opportunities in school. Thus, a greater understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms associated with single bouts of short-duration physical activity may inform on the functional day-to-day implications of removing physical activity opportunities from the school day for cognitive health. As physical activity trends indicate that children are growing increasingly sedentary and unfit; such an understanding of the potential for single-bouts of activity to contribute to more permanent changes in cognitive function over time and how best to optimize physically active behaviors to maximize cognitive health and function during development may serve to alter the trajectories of cognitive and brain development resulting in enhanced academic achievement in school-aged children.
Despite a growing body of literature which has indicated that participation in a single bout of moderate- intensity aerobic exercise serves to transiently enhance aspects of higher-order cognition, the neurobiological mechanisms associated with the beneficial effects of acute exercise remain unknown. This proposal will - for the first time - utilze state-of-the-art functional magnetic resonance imaging to establish an empirical basis for two hypothesized neurobiological mechanisms, resting-state cerebral blood flow and functional neural connectivity, proposed to underlie the beneficial effects of single-bouts of physical activiy on inhibitory control during preadolescence. Findings from this line of inquiry will serve to develop a greater understanding of the mechanisms associated with acute-exercise induced enhancements in cognition that will guide future research towards an understanding of the potential for single-bouts of activity to contribute to more permanent changes in cognitive function over time and how best to optimize physically active behaviors to maximize cognitive health and function during development.
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