Skip to comments.Children’s brain development is linked to physical fitness
Posted on 09/15/2010 4:46:17 PM PDT by decimon
CHAMPAIGN, lll. Researchers have found an association between physical fitness and the brain in 9- and 10-year-old children: Those who are more fit tend to have a bigger hippocampus and perform better on a test of memory than their less-fit peers.
The new study, which used magnetic resonance imaging to measure the relative size of specific structures in the brains of 49 child subjects, appears in the journal Brain Research.
This is the first study I know of that has used MRI measures to look at differences in brain between kids who are fit and kids who arent fit, said University of Illinois psychology professor and Beckman Institute director Art Kramer, who led the study with doctoral student Laura Chaddock and kinesiology and community health professor Charles Hillman. Beyond that, it relates those measures of brain structure to cognition.
The study focused on the hippocampus, a structure tucked deep in the brain, because it is known to be important in learning and memory. Previous studies in older adults and in animals have shown that exercise can increase the size of the hippocampus. A bigger hippocampus is associated with better performance on spatial reasoning and other cognitive tasks.
In animal studies, exercise has been shown to specifically affect the hippocampus, significantly increasing the growth of new neurons and cell survival, enhancing memory and learning, and increasing molecules that are involved in the plasticity of the brain, Chaddock said.
Rather than relying on second-hand reports of childrens physical activity level, the researchers measured how efficiently the subjects used oxygen while running on a treadmill.
This is the gold standard measure of fitness, Chaddock said.
The physically fit children were much more efficient than the less-fit children at utilizing oxygen, Kramer said.
When they analyzed the MRI data, the researchers found that the physically fit children tended to have bigger hippocampal volume about 12 percent bigger relative to total brain size than their out-of-shape peers.
The children who were in better physical condition also did better on tests of relational memory the ability to remember and integrate various types of information than their less-fit peers.
Higher fit children had higher performance on the relational memory task, higher fit children had larger hippocampal volumes, and in general, children with larger hippocampal volumes had better relational memory, Chaddock said.
Further analyses indicated that a bigger hippocampus boosted performance on the relational memory task.
If you remove hippocampal volume from the equation, Chaddock said, the relationship between fitness and memory decreases.
The new findings suggest that interventions to increase childhood physical activity could have an important effect on brain development, Kramer said.
We knew that experience and environmental factors and socioeconomic status all impact brain development, he said.
If you get some lousy genes from your parents, you cant really fix that, and its not easy to do something about your economic status. But heres something that we can do something about, Kramer said.
Campus hippos ping.
Yet, elementary schools have done away with recess.
Maybe I’m cynical, but it seems the timing of the findings from this research fits very nicely with the push for physical fitness and eating right and taxing evil foods by the OA....
Everyone knows the smartest kids in school are the jocks.
Why don’t these people just mind their own f’n business.
I think they mean younger children.
Without commenting on the merits of the study's findings - maybe they're accurate, maybe they aren't - is 49 a reasonable sample size upon which to base any conclusion - especially a conclusion grounded entirely in observational science? I don't know.
Americans are increasingly fatter and increasingly dumber. I don't think it's unreasonable to endeavor to find (or disprove) a correlation between these to societal events.
If the conclusion is that more study is warranted. That would be my judgment.
He ain't gonna remember eating that...
...and the fact that the results of this exhaustive research study were released by the University of Illinois. Wonder if it was paid for by stimulus funds.
As one who has gone from morbidly obese to now just mildly overweight by distance running, I can tell you that a sedentary lifestyle leads to a drowsiness and difficulty concentrating. My brain function has improved dramatically along with my fitness. Habits formed by the discipline of a consistent fitness program reinforce habits required for academic disciplines.
Yup, and little kids have more energy and are more hyper than older kids. When you run around your brain gets more OXYGEN, and it LOVES oxygen. That is why getting someone who has had a brain injury or a stroke on oxygen right away is important. And there are new oxygen therapies for even older brain injuries using high pressure and oxygen.
Actually, there is a strong, positive correlation in intelligence, physical health, and attractiveness.
Those who are more fit tend to have a bigger hippocampus and perform better on a test of memory than their less-fit peers.What about those who had a hippocampectomy? Or those who suffer from hippocamrectomy?
Is 49 a reasonable sample size?
Higher-class parents tend to be trimmer and have trimmer kids. It is not unreasonable to expect they have higher IQ’s and better memories as well. On the other hand, exercise is being shown to improve function among the elderly and now regular adults as well, so it is not unreasonable to expect that it might boost the brains of children too.
Ah, if it were that simple. Are you ready for all the obesity awareness, obesity sensitivity, special programs and increased taxes on items to pay for such re-education? I think that's the part we forsee and it isn't sitting well with us.
I agree with you. Could it be that the fitter kids have more involved parents that take better care of them, which usually includes seeing to their education as well?
Liberals will never admit that parents matter.
And yes, exercise is beneficial to people of all ages!
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