Aerobic Fitness and Response Variability in Preadolescent Children Performing a Cognitive Control Task

Chien Ting Wu, Matthew B. Pontifex, Lauren B. Raine, Laura Chaddock, Michelle W. Voss, Arthur F. Kramer, Charles H. Hillman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To investigate the relationship between aerobic fitness and cognitive variability in preadolescent children. Method: Forty-eight preadolescent children (25 males, 23 females, mean age = 10.1 years) were grouped into higher- and lower-fit groups according to their performance on a test of aerobic capacity (VO2max). Cognitive function was measured via behavioral responses to a modified flanker task. The distribution in reaction time was calculated within each participant to assess intraindividual variability of performance. Specifically, the standard deviation and coefficient variation of reaction time were used to represent cognitive variability. Results: Preadolescent children, regardless of fitness, exhibited longer reaction time, increased response variability, and decreased response accuracy to incongruent compared to congruent trials. Further, higher-fit children were less variable in their response time and more accurate in their responses across conditions of the flanker task, while no group differences were observed for response speed. Conclusion: These findings suggest that fitness is associated with better cognitive performance during a task that varies cognitive control demands, and extends this area of research to suggest that intraindividual variability may be a useful measure to examine the relationship between fitness and cognition during preadolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-341
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Coefficient of variation
  • Executive control
  • Physical activity
  • Reaction time
  • Standard deviation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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