An 8-month randomized controlled exercise trial alters brain activation during cognitive tasks in overweight children

Cynthia E. Krafft, Nicolette F. Schwarz, Lingxi Chi, Abby L. Weinberger, David J. Schaeffer, Jordan E. Pierce, Amanda L. Rodrigue, Nathan E. Yanasak, Patricia H. Miller, Phillip D. Tomporowski, Catherine L. Davis, Jennifer E. McDowell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


Objective Children who are less fit reportedly have lower performance on tests of cognitive control and differences in brain function. This study examined the effect of an exercise intervention on brain function during two cognitive control tasks in overweight children. Design and Methods Participants included 43 unfit, overweight (BMI ≥ 85th percentile) children 8- to 11-years old (91% Black), who were randomly divided into either an aerobic exercise (n = 24) or attention control group (n = 19). Each group was offered a separate instructor-led after-school program every school day for 8 months. Before and after the program, all children performed two cognitive control tasks during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI): antisaccade and flanker. Results Compared to the control group, the exercise group decreased activation in several regions supporting antisaccade performance, including precentral gyrus and posterior parietal cortex, and increased activation in several regions supporting flanker performance, including anterior cingulate and superior frontal gyrus. Conclusions Exercise may differentially impact these two task conditions, or the paradigms in which cognitive control tasks were presented may be sensitive to distinct types of brain activation that show different effects of exercise. In sum, exercise appears to alter efficiency or flexible modulation of neural circuitry supporting cognitive control in overweight children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-242
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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