Adaptations of Executive Function and Prefrontal Cortex Connectivity Following Exergame Play in 4- to 5-year old Children

AbstractThis study examined the separate and combined effects of exercise and cognitive training on children’s executive function (EF) and associated neural substrates. Sixty-two children were recruited and randomly assigned to an Exergame (exercise + cognitive activity), Exercise (physical activity), Sedentary (cognitive activity), or Control (no-play) Condition. The training consisted of 20 min sessions 2x/week and was completed by 49 children 4- to 5-years-old. Resting-state prefrontal cortex (PFC) connectivity utilizing functional near-infrared spectroscopy, behavioral assessments of EF, and teacher ratings of EF were assessed pre- and posttest. Exergame training significantly improved performance on transfer EF assessments compared to the other conditions and increased PFC connectivity. The changes in PFC connectivity were positively associated with EF improvement. These findings suggest that the combination of cognitive and exercise training modulates the effects on EF and elucidates the neural mechanisms underlying the changes in EF induced from exergame play.

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