The hippocampus has been implicated in a diverse set of cognitive domains and paradigms, including cognitive mapping, long-term memory, and relational memory, at long or short study–test intervals. Despite the diversity of these areas, their association with the hippocampus may rely on an underlying commonality of relational memory processing shared among them. Most studies assess hippocampal memory within just one of these domains, making it difficult to know whether these paradigms all assess a similar underlying cognitive construct tied to the hippocampus. Here we directly tested the commonality among disparate tasks linked to the hippocampus by using PCA on performance from a battery of 12 cognitive tasks that included two traditional, long-delay neuropsychological tests of memory and two laboratory tests of relational memory (one of spatial and one of visual object associations) that imposed only short delays between study and test. Also included were different tests of memory, executive function, and processing speed. Structural MRI scans from a subset of participants were used to quantify the volume of the hippocampus and other subcortical regions. Results revealed that the 12 tasks clustered into four components; critically, the two neuropsychological tasks of long-term verbal memory and the two laboratory tests of relational memory loaded onto one component. Moreover, bilateral hippocampal volume was strongly tied to performance on this component. Taken together, these data emphasize the important contribution the hippocampus makes to relational memory processing across a broad range of tasks that span multiple domains.
Brain aging is characterized by changes in both hemodynamic and neuronal responses, which may be influenced by the cardiorespiratory fitness of the individual. To investigate the relationship between neuronal and hemodynamic changes, we studied the brain activity elicited by visual stimulation (checkerboard reversals at different frequencies) in younger adults and in older adults varying in physical fitness. Four functional brain measures were used to compare neuronal and hemodynamic responses obtained from BA17: two reflecting neuronal activity (the event-related optical signal, EROS, and the C1 response of the ERP), and two reflecting functional hemodynamic changes (functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI, and near-infrared spectroscopy, NIRS). The results indicated that both younger and older adults exhibited a quadratic relationship between neuronal and hemodynamic effects, with reduced increases of the hemodynamic response at high levels of neuronal activity. Although older adults showed reduced activation, similar neurovascular coupling functions were observed in the two age groups when fMRI and deoxy-hemoglobin measures were used. However, the coupling between oxy-and deoxy-hemoglobin changes decreased with age and increased with increasing fitness. These data indicate that departures from linearity in neurovascular coupling may be present when using hemodynamic measures to study neuronal function.
Neurovascular coupling; aging; fitness; Event-related optical signal (EROS); Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS); Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); Event-related brain potentials (ERPs)
Computer-administered assessment of cognitive function is being increasingly incorporated in clinical trials, however its performance in these settings has not been systematically evaluated.
The Seniors Health and Activity Research Program (SHARP) pilot trial (N=73) developed a computer-based tool for assessing memory performance and executive functioning. The Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Seniors (LIFE) investigators incorporated this battery in a full scale multicenter clinical trial (N=1635). We describe relationships that test scores have with those from interviewer-administered cognitive function tests and risk factors for cognitive deficits and describe performance measures (completeness, intra-class correlations).
Computer-based assessments of cognitive function had consistent relationships across the pilot and full scale trial cohorts with interviewer-administered assessments of cognitive function, age, and a measure of physical function. In the LIFE cohort, their external validity was further demonstrated by associations with other risk factors for cognitive dysfunction: education, hypertension, diabetes, and physical function. Acceptable levels of data completeness (>83%) were achieved on all computer-based measures, however rates of missing data were higher among older participants (odds ratio=1.06 for each additional year; p<0.001) and those who reported no current computer use (odds ratio=2.71; p<0.001). Intra-class correlations among clinics were at least as low (ICC≤0.013) as for interviewer measures (ICC≤0.023), reflecting good standardization. All cognitive measures loaded onto the first principal component (global cognitive function), which accounted for 40% of the overall variance.
Our results support the use of computer-based tools for assessing cognitive function in multicenter clinical trials of older individuals.
Cognitive function; Clinical trial; Performance measures
Cerebral white matter degeneration occurs with increasing age and is associated with declining cognitive function. Research has shown that cardiorespiratory fitness and exercise are effective as protective, even restorative, agents against cognitive and neurobiological impairments in older adults. In this study, we investigated whether the beneficial impact of aerobic fitness would extend to white matter integrity in the context of a one-year exercise intervention. Further, we examined the pattern of diffusivity changes to better understand the underlying biological mechanisms. Finally, we assessed whether training-induced changes in white matter integrity would be associated with improvements in cognitive performance independent of aerobic fitness gains. Results showed that aerobic fitness training did not affect group-level change in white matter integrity, executive function, or short-term memory, but that greater aerobic fitness derived from the walking program was associated with greater change in white matter integrity in the frontal and temporal lobes, and greater improvement in short-term memory. Increases in white matter integrity, however, were not associated with short-term memory improvement, independent of fitness improvements. Therefore, while not all findings are consistent with previous research, we provide novel evidence for correlated change in training-induced aerobic fitness, white matter integrity, and cognition among healthy older adults.
Diffusion tensor imaging; Anisotropy; Cerebrum; Cognition; Physical fitness; Aging
The goal of the current study was to investigate the relationship between sport expertise and perceptual and cognitive skills, as measured by the component skills approach. We hypothesized that athletes would outperform non-athlete controls in a number of perceptual and cognitive domains and that sport expertise would minimize gender differences. A total of 154 individuals (87 professional volleyball players and 67 non-athlete controls) participated in the study. Participants performed a cognitive battery, which included tests of executive control, memory, and visuo-spatial attention. Athletes showed superior performance speed on three tasks (two executive control tasks and one visuo-spatial attentional processing task). In a subset of tasks, gender effects were observed mainly in the control group, supporting the notion that athletic experience can reduce traditional gender effects. The expertise effects obtained substantiate the view that laboratory tests of cognition may indeed enlighten the sport-cognition relationship.
cognition; expertise; sport
A number of studies and meta-analyses conclude that aerobic fitness (walking) interventions improve cognition. Such interventions typically compare improvements from these interventions to an active control group in which participants engage in non-aerobic activities (typically stretching and toning) for an equivalent amount of time. However, in the absence of a double-blind design, the presence of an active control group does not necessarily control for placebo effects; participants might expect different amounts of improvement for the treatment and control interventions . We conducted a large survey to explore whether people expect greater cognitive benefits from an aerobic exercise intervention compared to a control intervention. If participants expect greater improvement following aerobic exercise, then the benefits of such interventions might be due in part to a placebo effect. In general, expectations did not differ between aerobic and non-aerobic interventions. If anything, some of the results suggest the opposite (e.g., respondents expected the control, non-aerobic intervention to yield bigger memory gains). These results provide the first evidence that cognitive improvements following aerobic fitness training are not due to differential expectations.
Physical activity (PA) and cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) are associated with better cognitive function in late life, but the neural correlates for these relationships are unclear. To study these correlates, we examined the association of both PA and CRF with measures of white matter (WM) integrity in 88 healthy low-fit adults (age 60–78). Using accelerometry, we objectively measured sedentary behavior, light PA, and moderate to vigorous PA (MV-PA) over a week. We showed that greater MV-PA was related to lower volume of WM lesions. The association between PA and WM microstructural integrity (measured with diffusion tensor imaging) was region-specific: light PA was related to temporal WM, while sedentary behavior was associated with lower integrity in the parahippocampal WM. Our findings highlight that engaging in PA of various intensity in parallel with avoiding sedentariness are important in maintaining WM health in older age, supporting public health recommendations that emphasize the importance of active lifestyle.
Cognitive control, which involves the ability to pay attention and suppress interference, is important for learning and achievement during childhood. The white matter tracts related to control during childhood are not well known. We examined the relationship between white matter microstructure and cognitive control in 61 children aged 7 to 9 years using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). This technique enables an in vivo characterization of microstructural properties of white matter based on properties of diffusion. Such properties include fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity, axial diffusivity, and radial diffusivity, measures thought to reflect specific biological properties of white matter integrity. Our results suggest that children with higher estimates of white matter integrity in the corona radiata, superior longitudinal fasciculus, posterior thalamic radiation, and cerebral peduncle, were more accurate during incongruent (>><>>, <<><<) and neutral (-->--, --<--) trials of a task of cognitive control. Importantly, less interference during the task (i.e., incongruent and neutral difference scores) was associated with greater white matter microstructure in the posterior thalamic radiation and cerebral peduncle. Fiber tracts in a frontal-parietal-striatal-motor circuit seem to play a role in cognitive control in children.
child; cognition; diffusion tensor imaging; flanker; MRI
Declines in various cognitive abilities, particularly executive control functions, are observed in older adults. An important goal of cognitive training is to slow or reverse these age-related declines. However, opinion is divided in the literature regarding whether cognitive training can engender transfer to a variety of cognitive skills in older adults. Yet, recent research indicates that videogame training of young adults may engender broad transfer to skills of visual attention. In the current study, we used a real-time strategy videogame to attempt to train executive functions in older adults, such as working memory, task switching, short-term memory, inhibition, and reasoning. Older adults were either trained in a real-time strategy videogame for 23.5 hours (RON, n=20) or not (CONTROLS, n=20). A battery of cognitive tasks, including tasks of executive control and visuo-spatial skills, were assessed before, during, and after video game training. The trainees improved significantly in the measures of game performance. They also improved significantly more than the controls in a subset of the cognitive tasks, such as task switching, working memory, visual short term memory, and mental rotation. Trends in improvement were also observed, for the video game trainees, in inhibition and reasoning. Individual differences in changes in game performance were correlated with improvements in task-switching. The study has implications for the enhancement of executive control processes of older adults.
Cognitive training; aging; executive control; videogame; transfer of training
attention; working memory; reasoning; fluid intelligence; video games; cognitive training; casual games; transfer of training
Cognitive enhancements are associated with sport training. We extended the sport-cognition literature by using a realistic street crossing task to examine the multitasking and processing speed abilities of collegiate athletes and nonathletes.
Pedestrians navigated trafficked roads by walking on a treadmill in a virtual world, a challenge that requires the quick and simultaneous processing of multiple streams of information.
Athletes had higher street crossing success rates than nonathletes, as reflected by fewer collisions with moving vehicles. Athletes also showed faster processing speed on a computer-based test of simple reaction time, and shorter reaction times were associated with higher street crossing success rates.
The results suggest that participation in athletics relates to superior street crossing multitasking abilities and that athlete and nonathlete differences in processing speed may underlie this difference. We suggest that cognitive skills trained in sport may transfer to performance on everyday fast-paced multitasking abilities.
COGNITION; MULTITASKING; PROCESSING SPEED; SPORT; STREET CROSSING
Because children are becoming overweight, unhealthy, and unfit, understanding the neurocognitive benefits of an active lifestyle in childhood has important public health and educational implications. Animal research has indicated that aerobic exercise is related to increased cell proliferation and survival in the hippocampus as well as enhanced hippocampal-dependent learning and memory. Recent evidence extends this relationship to elderly humans by suggesting that high aerobic fitness levels in older adults are associated with increased hippocampal volume and superior memory performance. The present study aimed to further extend the link between fitness, hippocampal volume, and memory to a sample of preadolescent children. To this end, magnetic resonance imaging was employed to investigate whether higher- and lower-fit 9- and 10-year-old children showed differences in hippocampal volume and if the differences were related to performance on an item and relational memory task. Relational but not item memory is primarily supported by the hippocampus. Consistent with predictions, higher-fit children showed greater bilateral hippocampal volumes and superior relational memory task performance compared to lower-fit children. Hippocampal volume was also positively associated with performance on the relational but not the item memory task. Furthermore, bilateral hippocampal volume was found to mediate the relationship between fitness level (VO2 max) and relational memory. No relationship between aerobic fitness, nucleus accumbens volume, and memory was reported, which strengthens the hypothesized specific effect of fitness on the hippocampus. The findings are the first to indicate that aerobic fitness may relate to the structure and function of the preadolescent human brain.
Brain; Children; Exercise; Hippocampus; MRI; Physical activity
Previous research has found age-related deficits in a variety of cognitive processes. However, some studies have demonstrated age-related sparing on tasks where individuals have substantial experience, often attained over many decades. Here, the authors examined whether decades of experience in a fast-paced demanding profession, air traffic control (ATC), would enable older controllers to perform at high levels of proficiency. The authors also investigated whether older controllers would show diminished age-related decrements on domain-relevant cognitive abilities. Both young and old controllers and noncontrollers performed a battery of cognitive and ATC tasks. Results indicate that although high levels of experience can reduce the magnitude of age-related decline on the component processes that underlie complex task performance, this sparing is limited in scope. More important, however, the authors observed experience-based sparing on simulated ATC tasks, with the sparing being most evident on the more complex air traffic control tasks. These results suggest that given substantial experience, older adults may be quite capable of performing at high levels of proficiency on fast-paced demanding real-world tasks. The implications of these findings for global skilled labor shortages are discussed.
cognitive aging; human performance; air traffic control; workforce shortage
The current study examined how a randomized one-year aerobic exercise program for healthy older adults would affect serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), insulin-like growth factor type 1 (IGF-1), and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) - putative markers of exercise-induced benefits on brain function. The study also examined whether (a) change in the concentration of these growth factors was associated with alterations in functional connectivity following exercise, and (b) the extent to which pre-intervention growth factor levels were associated with training-related changes in functional connectivity. In 65 participants (mean age = 66.4), we found that although there were no group-level changes in growth factors as a function of the intervention, increased temporal lobe connectivity between the bilateral parahippocampus and the bilateral middle temporal gyrus was associated with increased BDNF, IGF-1, and VEGF for an aerobic walking group but not for a non-aerobic control group, and greater pre-intervention VEGF was associated with greater training-related increases in this functional connection. Results are consistent with animal models of exercise and the brain, but are the first to show in humans that exercise-induced increases in temporal lobe functional connectivity are associated with changes in growth factors and may be augmented by greater baseline VEGF.
exercise; aging; functional connectivity; fMRI; default mode network; aerobic fitness; growth factors
Brain training programs have proliferated in recent years, with claims that video games or computer-based tasks can broadly enhance cognitive function. However, benefits are commonly seen only in trained tasks. Assessing generalized improvement and practicality of laboratory exercises complicates interpretation and application of findings. In this study, we addressed these issues by using active control groups, training tasks that more closely resemble real-world demands and multiple tests to determine transfer of training. We examined whether casual video games can broadly improve cognition, and selected training games from a study of the relationship between game performance and cognitive abilities. A total of 209 young adults were randomized into a working memory–reasoning group, an adaptive working memory–reasoning group, an active control game group, and a no-contact control group. Before and after 15 h of training, participants completed tests of reasoning, working memory, attention, episodic memory, perceptual speed, and self-report measures of executive function, game experience, perceived improvement, knowledge of brain training research, and game play outside the laboratory. Participants improved on the training games, but transfer to untrained tasks was limited. No group showed gains in reasoning, working memory, episodic memory, or perceptual speed, but the working memory–reasoning groups improved in divided attention, with better performance in an attention-demanding game, a decreased attentional blink and smaller trail-making costs. Perceived improvements did not differ across training groups and those with low reasoning ability at baseline showed larger gains. Although there are important caveats, our study sheds light on the mixed effects in the training and transfer literature and offers a novel and potentially practical training approach. Still, more research is needed to determine the real-world benefits of computer programs such as casual games.
attention; working memory; reasoning; fluid intelligence; video games; cognitive training; casual games; transfer of training
The idea that video games or computer-based applications can improve cognitive function has led to a proliferation of programs claiming to “train the brain.” However, there is often little scientific basis in the development of commercial training programs, and many research-based programs yield inconsistent or weak results. In this study, we sought to better understand the nature of cognitive abilities tapped by casual video games and thus reflect on their potential as a training tool. A moderately large sample of participants (n=209) played 20 web-based casual games and performed a battery of cognitive tasks. We used cognitive task analysis and multivariate statistical techniques to characterize the relationships between performance metrics. We validated the cognitive abilities measured in the task battery, examined a task analysis-based categorization of the casual games, and then characterized the relationship between game and task performance. We found that games categorized to tap working memory and reasoning were robustly related to performance on working memory and fluid intelligence tasks, with fluid intelligence best predicting scores on working memory and reasoning games. We discuss these results in the context of overlap in cognitive processes engaged by the cognitive tasks and casual games, and within the context of assessing near and far transfer. While this is not a training study, these findings provide a methodology to assess the validity of using certain games as training and assessment devices for specific cognitive abilities, and shed light on the mixed transfer results in the computer-based training literature. Moreover, the results can inform design of a more theoretically-driven and methodologically-sound cognitive training program.
Working memory; Reasoning; Fluid intelligence; Video games; Cognitive training; Casual games
Researchers have devoted considerable attention and resources to cognitive training, yet there have been few examinations of the relationship between individual differences in patterns of brain activity during the training task and training benefits on untrained tasks (i.e., transfer). While a predominant hypothesis suggests that training will transfer if there is training-induced plasticity in brain regions important for the untrained task, this theory lacks sufficient empirical support. To address this issue we investigated the relationship between individual differences in training-induced changes in brain activity during a cognitive training videogame, and whether those changes explained individual differences in the resulting changes in performance in untrained tasks. Forty-five young adults trained with a videogame that challenges working memory, attention, and motor control for 15 2-h sessions. Before and after training, all subjects received neuropsychological assessments targeting working memory, attention, and procedural learning to assess transfer. Subjects also underwent pre- and post-functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans while they played the training videogame to assess how these patterns of brain activity change in response to training. For regions implicated in working memory, such as the superior parietal lobe (SPL), individual differences in the post-minus-pre changes in activation predicted performance changes in an untrained working memory task. These findings suggest that training-induced plasticity in the functional representation of a training task may play a role in individual differences in transfer. Our data support and extend previous literature that has examined the association between training related cognitive changes and associated changes in underlying neural networks. We discuss the role of individual differences in brain function in training generalizability and make suggestions for future cognitive training research.
cognitive training; neuroplasticity; tranfser; working memory; video games
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.
cardiorespiratory fitness; development; diffusion tensor imaging; fiber tracts; microstructure
Cognitive control of physical activity and sedentary behavior is receiving increased attention in the neuroscientific and behavioral medicine literature as a means of better understanding and improving the self-regulation of physical activity. Enhancing individuals’ cognitive control capacities may provide a means to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behavior. First, this paper reviews emerging evidence of the antecedence of cognitive control abilities in successful self-regulation of physical activity, and in precipitating self-regulation failure that predisposes to sedentary behavior. We then highlight the brain networks that may underpin the cognitive control and self-regulation of physical activity, including the default mode network, prefrontal cortical networks and brain regions and pathways associated with reward. We then discuss research on cognitive training interventions that document improved cognitive control and that suggest promise of influencing physical activity regulation. Key cognitive training components likely to be the most effective at improving self-regulation are also highlighted. The review concludes with suggestions for future research.
cognitive control; self-regulation; executive functioning; physical activity; sedentary behavior
Executive function declines with age, but engaging in aerobic exercise may attenuate decline. One mechanism by which aerobic exercise may preserve executive function is through the up-regulation of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), which also declines with age. The present study examined BDNF as a mediator of the effects of a 1-year walking intervention on executive function in 90 older adults (mean age = 66.82). Participants were randomized to a stretching and toning control group or a moderate intensity walking intervention group. BDNF serum levels and performance on a task-switching paradigm were collected at baseline and follow-up. We found that age moderated the effect of intervention group on changes in BDNF levels, with those in the highest age quartile showing the greatest increase in BDNF after 1-year of moderate intensity walking exercise (p = 0.036). The mediation analyses revealed that BDNF mediated the effect of the intervention on task-switch accuracy, but did so as a function of age, such that exercise-induced changes in BDNF mediated the effect of exercise on task-switch performance only for individuals over the age of 71. These results demonstrate that both age and BDNF serum levels are important factors to consider when investigating the mechanisms by which exercise interventions influence cognitive outcomes, particularly in elderly populations.
BDNF; executive function; aging; exercise; physical activity; cognition; mediation analysis
Previous examinations of search under camouflage conditions have reported that performance improves with training and that training can engender near perfect transfer to similar, but novel camouflage-type displays . What remains unclear, however, are the cognitive mechanisms underlying these training improvements and transfer benefits. On the one hand, improvements and transfer benefits might be associated with higher-level overt strategy shifts, such as through the restriction of eye movements to target-likely (background) display regions. On the other hand, improvements and benefits might be related to the tuning of lower-level perceptual processes, such as figure-ground segregation. To decouple these competing possibilities we had one group of participants train on camouflage search displays and a control group train on non-camouflage displays. Critically, search displays were rapidly presented, precluding eye movements. Before and following training, all participants completed transfer sessions in which they searched novel displays. We found that search performance on camouflage displays improved with training. Furthermore, participants who trained on camouflage displays suffered no performance costs when searching novel displays following training. Our findings suggest that training to break camouflage is related to the tuning of perceptual mechanisms and not strategic shifts in overt attention.
The purpose of this study was to assess the extent to which participation in a 12-month exercise program changed the degree of importance that older adults attached to physical activity. Additionally, associations among changes in physical activity importance and health-related and psychosocial outcomes were examined.
Community-dwelling older adults (N = 179) were recruited to participate in a 12-month exercise trial examining the association between changes in physical activity and fitness with changes in brain structure and psychological health. Participants were randomly assigned to a walking condition or a flexibility, toning, and balance condition. Physical, psychological, and cognitive assessments were taken at months 0, 6, and 12.
Involvement in a 12-month exercise program increased the importance that participants placed on physical activity; this positive change was similar across exercise condition and sex. Changes in importance, however, were only associated with changes in physical health status and outcome expectations for exercise midway through the intervention. There were no significant associations at the end of the program.
Regular participation in physical activity can positively influence the perceived importance of the behavior itself. Yet, the implications of such changes on physical activity-related outcomes remain equivocal and warrant further investigation
To better understand age differences in brain function and behavior, the current study applied network science to model functional interactions between brain regions. We observed a shift in network topology whereby for older adults subcortical and cerebellar structures overlapping with the Salience network had more connectivity to the rest of the brain, coupled with fragmentation of large-scale cortical networks such as the Default and Fronto-Parietal networks. Additionally, greater integration of the dorsal medial thalamus and red nucleus in the Salience network was associated with greater satisfaction with life for older adults, which is consistent with theoretical predictions of age-related increases in emotion regulation that are thought to help maintain well-being and life satisfaction in late adulthood. In regard to cognitive abilities, greater ventral medial prefrontal cortex coherence with its topological neighbors in the Default Network was associated with faster processing speed. Results suggest that large-scale organizing properties of the brain differ with normal aging, and this perspective may offer novel insight into understanding age-related differences in cognitive function and well-being.
To cross-validate the psychometric properties of the abbreviated Late-Life Function and Disability Instrument (LL-FDI), a measure of perceived functional limitations and disability.
Baseline and 12-month follow-up assessments conducted across the course of a 12-month exercise program.
University research community.
Older healthy adults (N=179; mean ± SD age, 66.43±5.67y) at baseline; 145 were retained at follow-up.
Main Outcome Measures
LL-FDI and functional performance measures.
Factor analyses confirmed the factor structure of the abbreviated LL-FDI, and all subscales met minimal criteria for temporal invariance. Significant correlations also were found between functional limitations subscales and an array of physical function performance measures, supporting the scale’s construct validity.
The abbreviated LL-FDI with some modifications appears to be temporally invariant in community-dwelling older adults. Additionally, moderate relationships between functional limitations and functional performance provide further support for these being conceptually distinct constructs.
Geriatrics; Longitudinal studies; Psychometrics; Rehabilitation
There is a growing trend of inactivity among children, which may not only result in poorer physical health, but also poorer cognitive health. Previous research has shown that lower fitness has been related to decreased cognitive function for tasks requiring perception, memory, and cognitive control as well as lower academic achievement.
To investigate the relationship between aerobic fitness, learning, and memory on a task that involved remembering names and locations on a fictitious map. Different learning strategies and recall procedures were employed to better understand fitness effects on learning novel material.
Forty-eight 9–10 year old children (n = 24 high fit; HF and n = 24 low fit; LF) performed a task requiring them to learn the names of specific regions on a map, under two learning conditions in which they only studied (SO) versus a condition in which they were tested during study (TS). The retention day occurred one day after initial learning and involved two different recall conditions: free recall and cued recall.
There were no differences in performance at initial learning between higher fit and lower fit participants. However, during the retention session higher fit children outperformed lower fit children, particularly when the initial learning strategy involved relatively poor recall performance (i.e., study only versus test-study strategy).
We interpret these novel data to suggest that fitness can boost learning and memory of children and that these fitness-associated performance benefits are largest in conditions in which initial learning is the most challenging. Such data have important implications for both educational practice and policy.