From cognitive motor preparation to visual processing: The benefits of childhood fitness to brain health

M. Berchicci, M. B. Pontifex, E. S. Drollette, C. Pesce, C. H. Hillman, F. Di Russo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The association between a fit body and a fit brain in children has led to a rise of behavioral and neuroscientific research. Yet, the relation of cardiorespiratory fitness on premotor neurocognitive preparation with early visual processing has received little attention. Here, 41 healthy, lower and higher fit preadolescent children were administered a modified version of the Eriksen flanker task while electroencephalography (EEG) and behavioral measures were recorded. Event-related potentials (ERPs) locked to the stimulus onset with an earlier than usual baseline (-900/-800. ms) allowed investigation of both the usual post-stimulus (i.e., the P1, N1 and P2) as well as the pre-stimulus ERP components, such as the Bereitschaftspotential (BP) and the prefrontal negativity (pN component). At the behavioral level, aerobic fitness was associated response accuracy, with higher fit children being more accurate than lower fit children. Fitness-related differences selectively emerged at prefrontal brain regions during response preparation, with larger pN amplitude for higher than lower fit children, and at early perceptual stages after stimulus onset, with larger P1 and N1 amplitudes in higher relative to lower fit children. Collectively, the results suggest that the benefits of being aerobically fit appear at the stage of cognitive preparation prior to stimulus presentation and the behavioral response during the performance of a task that challenges cognitive control. Further, it is likely that enhanced activity in prefrontal brain areas may improve cognitive control of visuo-motor tasks, allowing for stronger proactive inhibition and larger early allocation of selective attention resources on relevant external stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-219
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Jul 9 2015


  • Adolescence
  • Cognition
  • ERP
  • Fitness
  • Motor preparation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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