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Physical activity may strengthen children's ability to pay attention
Date:3/31/2009

task," Hillman said. "They had a higher rate of accuracy, especially when the task was more difficult. Along with that behavioral effect, we also found that there were changes in their event-related brain potentials (ERPs) in these neuroelectric signals that are a covert measure of attentional resource allocation."

One aspect of the neuroelectric activity of particular interest to researchers is a measure referred to as the P3 potential. Hillman said the amplitude of the potential relates to the allocation of attentional resources.

"What we found in this particular study is, following acute bouts of walking, children had a larger P3 amplitude, suggesting that they are better able to allocate attentional resources, and this effect is greater in the more difficult conditions of the flanker test, suggesting that when the environment is more noisy visual noise in this case kids are better able to gate out that noise and selectively attend to the correct stimulus and act upon it."

In an effort to see how performance on such tests relates to actual classroom learning, researchers next administered an academic achievement test. The test measured performance in three areas: reading, spelling and math.

Again, the researchers noted better test results following exercise.

"And when we assessed it, the effect was largest in reading comprehension," Hillman said. In fact, he said, "If you go by the guidelines set forth by the Wide Range Achievement Test, the increase in reading comprehension following exercise equated to approximately a full grade level.

"Thus, the exercise effect on achievement is not statistically significant, but a meaningful difference."

Hillman said he's not sure why the students' performance on the spelling and math portions of the test didn't show as much of an improvement as did reading comprehension, but suspects it may be related to design of the experiment. Students were tested on readin
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Contact: Melissa Mitchell
melissa@illinois.edu
217-333-5491
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3 4

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