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RESEARCH PAPER
Instructions
The project for this course is a written paper that reviews, in depth, a topic in cognition and
memory. You may choose your own topic but it must be related to cognitive
psychology. Examples of appropriate topics include false memories, attention span, problemsolving, and decision-making.
Your paper should summarize fundamental issues, questions, and controversies and present
current research on the topic. To accomplish this, you will have to use a minimum of five
recent research articles (published within the past five years) to illustrate relevant points.
You may use any of a number of electronic databases to find research articles that deal with
your topic, including the library and the Internet. The one requirement for your selected
research articles is that they must have appeared in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
(You may wish to consult the library staff or your instructor to determine whether a particular
journal is peer-reviewed.) You may not use the course text or newspaper or magazine articles
as one of your five references, but they are sometimes useful when they lead you to an
appropriate research article. Avoid simply repeating the articles in summary form; use them
within the text of your paper to illustrate important points. This paper should focus on
current research, as opposed to background information that could be found in a textbook.
Your paper is to be seven to ten pages, or about 1,800 words, in length, excluding title page
and reference page. It must be typed, double spaced, with one-inch margins, and fully
referenced in the format specified in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological
Association (see http://www.apastyle.org/index.aspx). Check the Course Schedule in this
syllabus for the due date.
The text of your paper should be preceded by an abstract (about 100 words) that summarizes
the key points in the paper (i.e., a statement of the problem, major findings, and conclusions).
The paper will be graded on content, organization, and writing mechanics and style. The
following rubric will be used to assign points associated with each main topic.
TOPIC: ATTENTION SPAN
GRADING RUBRIC
The paper is due at the end of this school week (Tuesday). Please see the grading rubric in
the syllabus and reprinted below.
Number of Points Awarded
5
4
3
2
1
Content
1. All topics are discussed in clear detail.
2. The author supports assertions correctly.
3. Ideas are interrelated coherently and logically.
4. The author creatively enhances the topic.
Organization
5. An introduction previews the main points of study.
6. The body of the paper develops and elaborates on the
main ideas.
7. A conclusion summarizes the main points.
8. An abstract summarizes the key points of the paper.
Writing Mechanics and Style
9. The paper is free of mechanical errors (e.g.,
misspellings, typos, punctuation errors, etc.)
10. The paper is grammatically sound (proper sentence
structure).
11. Citations and references are formatted in proper style
(i.e., APA).
12. References are recent (within the past five years) and
appropriate to the nature and the level of the topic.
13. References were located using appropriate electronic
data sources.
Points to be Awarded
Behaviors Demonstrated
5
Paper contains no errors in this area.
0
4
Paper contains limited errors in this area;
however, the overall presentation of the
material is readable and appropriate.
3
Paper contains limited errors in this area;
however, the overall presentation material is
difficult to read.
2
Paper contains a number of errors in this
area; however the overall presentation is
acceptable.
1
Paper contains a number of errors in this
area, and the overall presentation is difficult
to read.
0
Paper contains numerous errors in this area
that detract from the overall presentation.
Materials
Psychology of Sport & Exercise 57 (2021) 102060
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Psychology of Sport & Exercise
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/psychsport
Physical fitness, cognitive functioning and academic achievement in
healthy adolescents
Barbara Franca Haverkamp 1, 2, *, Jaap Oosterlaan 2, 3, Marsh Königs 3, Esther Hartman 1
1
University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Center for Human Movement Sciences, Groningen, the Netherlands
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences, Clinical Neuropsychology Section, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
3
Emma Children’s Hospital, Amsterdam UMC, University of Amsterdam, Department of Pediatrics, Emma Neuroscience Group, Amsterdam Reproduction &
Development, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
2
A R T I C L E I N F O
A B S T R A C T
Keywords:
Physical fitness
Cognitive functions
Academic achievement
Adolescents
Purpose: Examine the association between health-related physical fitness (cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular
fitness) and skill-related physical fitness (speed-agility) and both cognitive functions and academic achievement
in adolescents (12–15 years).
Methods: Data of 423 Dutch adolescents were analyzed (46.8% boys, age = 13.45 ± 0.43 years). Physical fitness
was assessed using five subtests of the Eurofit test battery measuring cardiorespiratory fitness (20 m Shuttle Run
Test), muscular fitness (Broad Jump and Sit-Ups) and speed-agility (10 × 5 m Shuttle Run Test and Plate Tapping
Test). Cognitive functions were assessed by the Digit Span Task, the Grid Task and an adapted version of the
Attention Network Test. Finally, academic achievement was assessed by two standardized tests assessing
mathematic skills and language skills. Multilevel regression analyses were performed in MlWin to examine the
relations of interest adjusting for sex and age.
Results: Multilevel regression analysis showed that speed-agility was significantly related to visuospatial working
memory (β = 0.159; p = 0.014), information processing and control (β = 0.238; p < 0.001) and interference control (β = 0.156; p = 0.039), but not to the other cognitive or academic achievement outcomes. Cardiore­ spiratory fitness and muscular fitness were not related to any of the cognitive or academic achievement outcomes. Conclusion: The results suggest that skill-related physical fitness is related to cognitive functions and healthrelated physical fitness is not. Therefore it can be argued that improved levels of skill-related physical fitness may lead to improved cognitive functioning. 1. Introduction Physical activity is related to health benefits, including lower risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes (Janssen & LeBlanc, 2010). More­ over, recent evidence indicates that physical fitness, which refers to the ability to engage in physical activity for a protracted period of time (Martínez-Vizcaíno & Sánchez-López, 2008), is also associated with better executive functions and academic achievement in adolescents (Chu et al., 2019). Executive functions are higher order cognitive skills that enable goal directed behavior and are an important prerequisite for successful learning, and are important in the social and psychological development of adolescents (Diamond, 2013). However, during adolescence physical fitness levels decrease (Albon et al., 2010; Venckunas et al., 2017), and this might lead to sub-optimal development of executive functions and academic achievement. As physical fitness refers to a wide range of aspects of health- and skill-related aspects (Corbin, et al., 2000), it is unclear which aspects of physical fitness are associated to cognitive functions and academic achievement. Health-related physical fitness consists of those compo­ nents of physical fitness that have a relationship with good health, including cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular fitness (Corbin et al., 2000). Cardiorespiratory fitness refers to the overall capacity of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems and the ability to carry out prolonged strenuous exercise (Ortega et al., 2008). Muscular fitness refers to the capacity to carry out work against resistance (Ortega et al., 2008). Skill-related physical fitness consists of those components of * Corresponding author. University Medical Center Groningen, Center for Human Movement Sciences, PO box 196, 9700 AD, Groningen, the Netherlands. E-mail address: b.f.haverkamp@umcg.nl (B.F. Haverkamp). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2021.102060 Received 31 May 2021; Received in revised form 1 September 2021; Accepted 17 September 2021 Available online 20 September 2021 1469-0292/© 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). B.F. Haverkamp et al. Psychology of Sport & Exercise 57 (2021) 102060 physical fitness that have a relationship with enhanced performance in sports and motor skills, including speed-agility abilities (Corbin et al., 2000). Speed-agility abilities enable one to quickly move the body and change its direction while maintaining control and balance (Ortega et al., 2008). It is suggested that health-related physical fitness optimizes cognitive functioning and academic achievement, by promoting blood flow and synaptic plasticity (Best, 2010) and upregulating brain derived neuro­ trophic factor (BDNF) levels that support the survival and growth of neurons (Gomez-Pinilla & Hillman, 2013). Skill-related physical fitness, might optimize cognitive functioning and academic achievement by strengthening of the motor-cognition network (Ludyga et al., 2016). This network involves neural regions such as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the neo-cerebellum that are recruited during performance of motor tasks, and are typically associated with a range of cognitive op­ erations (Ludyga et al., 2016). Recent reviews show that most of the existing literature is focused on the association between cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive func­ tions or academic achievement in adolescents (Chu et al., 2019; Don­ nelly et al., 2016; Ruiz-Ariza et al., 2017; Santana et al., 2017). In the reviews of Donnelly et al. (2016) and Ruiz-Ariza et al. (2017) it was concluded that there was moderately sized positive associations for cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive functioning, including executive functioning. However, Ruiz-Ariza et al. (2017) also showed that speed-agility, motor coordination and perceptual-motor skill could be potential predictors of cognitive functioning and academic performance in adolescents. In addition, other studies suggested that learning new skill-related physical fitness items seemed to be associated to cognitive functions and especially executive functions (Moreau et al., 2015; Pesce et al., 2013; Schmidt et al., 2015). In the reviews of Chu et al. (2019) and Santana et al. (2017) it was concluded that there was evidence for a moderately sized positive relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and academic achievement. However, in previous studies most often only one aspect of physical fitness was examined and evidence for other aspects of physical fitness (e.g. muscular fitness, speed-agility) are scarce. Furthermore, it has been suggested that cognitive functioning mediates the association between physical fitness and academic achievement in pre-adolescent children (Kvalø et al., 2019; Oberer et al., 2018; van der Niet et al., 2014). However, the mediating role of cognitive functioning in the relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement has not been investigated yet in the important developmental stage of adolescence. The aim of the current study was to examine the association between three components of health-related and skill-related physical fitness (cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular fitness and speed-agility) and both cognitive and academic functioning in adolescents (aged 12–15 years). It was hypothesized that better physical fitness was associated with better cognitive and academic functioning and that the association be­ tween physical fitness and academic achievement was mediated by cognitive functioning. obtained from the adolescents and one of their parents/guardians prior to participation. Demographics of the participating adolescents are shown in Table 1. 2. Methods Table 1 Participant characteristics (N = 423). 2.2. Measuring instruments 2.2.1. Physical fitness Five subtests of the Eurofit test battery (COUNCIL, 1988) were used to measure three components of physical fitness: cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular fitness, and speed-agility. Vrijkotte et al. (2007) re­ ported good reliability (rs > 0.75) and satisfactory validity for the
Eurofit test battery in adolescents aged 12–16 years.
Cardiorespiratory fitness was measured with the 20-m Shuttle Run
Test. This test consisted of running back and forth between two lines 20
m apart, within a specific time interval that was indicated by audio
signals. The interval between each audio signal became shorter as the
test proceeded, and required running speed to increase to comply with
test demands. The test ended when an adolescent failed to reach a line
prior to the audio signal on two successive trials. The number of
completed tracks was recorded and peak VO2 was computed with the
equation proposed by Barnett et al. (1993) in which peak VO2 is
calculated in ml.kg-1.min-1 using the formula: 24.2–5* sex (male =
0 and female = 1) – 0.8 *age (years) + 3.4* maximal speed (km.h-1)
reached during the last stage of the test.
Muscular fitness was determined by measuring strength in the lower
extremities and core strength. Strength of the lower extremities was
measured with the Broad Jump Test. Participants stood behind a line
with their feet slightly apart. They used a two-foot take-off to jump as far
as possible. Adolescents got two attempts, of which the longest distance
jumped (in cm) was recorded as the test result. Core strength was
measured with Sit-Ups where adolescents had to touch the floor with
their shoulders and sit back up again while the elbows touched the
knees. Knees were required to be in an angle of 90â—¦ and arms needed to
be crossed in front of the chest. The amount of sit-ups performed within
30 s was recorded as a test result.
Speed-agility was determined by measuring lower and upper ex­
tremities speed-agility. Speed-agility of the lower extremities was
measured with the 10 × 5 m Shuttle Run Test. This test consisted of
running back and forth between two lines 5 m apart. Time needed to run
this distance ten times was recorded (s). The best of two attempts was
used as the test result. Speed-agility of the upper extremities was
measured with the Plate Tapping Test. In this test, adolescents placed
their non-preferred hand between two disks, that were 80 cm apart, and
the preferred hand needed to consecutively touch these two discs as fast
as possible. The time needed to complete 25 full cycles was recorded.
The best of two attempts was used as a test result.
2.2.2. Cognitive functions
Several cognitive functions were assessed in the present study and
included assessment of three executive functions (visuospatial working
2.1. Participants
Adolescents from seven secondary schools in the northern part of the
Netherlands were recruited to participate in the present study. In total,
423 adolescents (53.19% girls, Mage = 13.45 years, SD = 0.428) were
recruited to participate. Adolescents with missing values on one of the
outcome variables were excluded. Reasons for missing test scores were
no score for cognitive functions (n = 77) or academic achievement (n =
70) due to absence during test days at school or incorrect test admin­
istration, resulting in 346 participant for executive functions and 353
participants for academic achievement. Adolescents attended prevoca­
tional secondary education, higher general secondary education or preuniversity education. In all instances, written informed consent was
Variable
Mean (SD)
Age (years)
Sex, n girls
BMI (kg/m2)
Healthy weighta
Overweighta
Obesitya
Unknownb
Educational level
Prevocational secondary education
Higher general secondary education
Pre-university education
13.45 (0.428)
19.08 (3.230)
N (%)
225 (53.2%)
364 (86.1%)
36 (8.5%)
11 (2.6%)
12 (2.8%)
92 (21.75%)
198 (46.8%)
133 (31.4%)
Note. BMI, body-mass index; aAccording to the reference values by Cole et al.
(2000); babsent during measurements (n = 11) or refused to be weighted (n = 1).
2
B.F. Haverkamp et al.
Psychology of Sport & Exercise 57 (2021) 102060
memory, verbal working memory, and interference control) and of in­
formation processing and attentional functioning.
Visuospatial working memory was assessed using the forward and
backward condition of the computerized Grid Task (Nutley et al., 2009).
Adolescents were required to repeat a sequence of yellow dots that was
presented on a four by four grid. First, the adolescents had to repeat a
sequence in the order of presentation and when they finished this con­
dition they had to repeat a sequences in reversed order by clicking on the
relevant locations in the grid (sequence length started at 2 yellow dots).
The length of the sequence, which increased after every four trials,
primarily determined trial difficulty. Trial difficulty was also deter­
mined by the trajectory of the yellow dot within the grid, which was
more difficult in the second set of two trials in sequences of a given
length. The task was terminated after two consecutive incorrect re­
sponses on trials with the same difficulty level. For every correct trial,
the participant received one point. The total score was calculated by
multiplying the number of correct trials with the span of the last correct
item. For example, correct responses on the easy sublevel within three
circles returns a span of 3 and the difficult sublevel within the length of
three circles represents a span of 3.5 (Kessels et al., 2000).
Verbal working memory was assessed using the forward and back­
ward condition of the Digit Span Task (Wechsler, 1991). A sequence of
numbers was presented auditory by a trained examiner (sequence length
started at 2 digits). Adolescents were required to repeat the sequence in
the order of presentation and when they finished this condition they had
to repeat a sequence in reversed order in the backward condition. Trial
difficulty was determined by length of the sequence, which increased
with one digit every other trial. The task was terminated after two
consecutive incorrect responses on trials with the same difficulty level.
For every correct trial, the participant received one point. The total score
was calculated by multiplying the number of correct trials with the
highest length of digit sequence passed (Kessels et al., 2000).
Interference control was assessed using an adapted version of the
Attention Network Test (ANT) (Fan et al., 2002). Target stimuli con­
sisting of an airplane heading to the right or left were presented on a
computer screen. Adolescents were instructed to respond as quickly and
accurate as possible to the heading direction of the target stimuli by
pressing the corresponding button. Two distractors on both sides could
flank the target stimuli (i.e. flankers). In the neutral condition no
flankers were presented. In the congruent condition the flankers were
presented on the side to which the airplane headed and in the incon­
gruent condition the flankers were presented on the site opposite to
which the airplane headed. The participants first performed a practice
block of 24 trials, and were subsequently presented with four blocks of
36 trials each followed with a short break (30s) in between. The dif­
ference in mean reaction time and accuracy (% correct responses) be­
tween congruent and incongruent trials was used as a measure for
interference control.
Information processing and attention processes were also assessed
with the ANT. Three types of warning cues preceded the target stimuli
(airplane heading left or right): a central cue in the middle of the screen,
a spatial cue indicating the position of the upcoming target, or no cue.
All trials were counterbalanced for cue condition, spatial cue location,
stimulus condition and stimulus location, and were presented in pre­
defined random order. Mean reaction time on neutral trials was used as a
measure of information processing speed. Differences in mean reaction
time and accuracy between central cues and no cue trials were used as
measures of alerting attention. Differences in mean reaction time and
accuracy (% correct responses) between spatial cues and central cues
were used as measures of spatial attention. Finally, as lapses of attention
cause extreme slow responses that inflate information processing speed,
ex-Gaussian modelling of reaction time distributions was used to
calculate the contribution of extreme slow responses (tau) (Lacouture &
Cousineau, 2008) to information processing speed. Estimates of tau were
obtained from fitting the ex-Gaussian distribution to the reaction times
data for each individual, in which tau represents the exponential
component and characterizes the slow reaction times in the tail of the
distribution. Background information on ex-Gaussian modelling and full
explanation of the mathematical procedure is provided elsewhere
(Whelan, 2008).
2.2.3. Academic achievement
Academic achievement was assessed with a short version of stan­
dardized achievement tests of mathematics and language that are part of
the Dutch Child Academic Monitoring System (CAMS) (van Til et al.,
2015). Excellent psychometric properties have been reported for both
tests (van Til et al., 2015). The mathematics test consisted of 40 ques­
tions covering the topics algebra, number sense and geometry. The
language test consisted of 60 questions about verb and common noun
spelling. Raw scores consisted of the number of correct responses on
each test. Raw scores were converted to a standardized proficiency score
using normative data derived from a large sample of Dutch adolescents
from lower and higher educational school levels. This provided the
opportunity to compare scores between different educational levels.
2.3. Procedure
Adolescents were tested during two physical education lessons
within the same week. In the first lesson the 20-m Shuttle Run Test was
administered. Furthermore, participants’ weight, without shoes, was
measured with a digital scale, that was calibrated after each measure­
ment week and all measurements were recorded to the closest 0.1 kg.
Finally, height was measured by tape-measure, without shoes, and all
measurements were recorded to the closest cm. In the second lesson, the
Broad Jump, Sit-Ups, 10 × 5 m Shuttle Run Test and Plate Tapping Test
were administered. In the same week, the neurocognitive assessments
were individually performed during the school day. Standardized in­
structions were used for administration of the neurocognitive assess­
ments which took about 25 min. Finally, mathematics and language tests
were administered in the class and took about 70 min. All tests were
conducted by trained examiners. The study procedures were in accor­
dance with and approved by the medical ethical committee of the Uni­
versity Medical Center Groningen, the Netherlands. The current data
was obtained as part of a larger study registered in the Dutch Trial
Register (NTR7098) and was conducted according to the principles
expressed in the Declaration of Helsinki.
2.4. Data analysis
Initial analyses were performed in IBM SPSS Statistics version 26.0.
Outliers (z ≤ − 3.29 or z ≥ 3.29) were winsorized (Tabachnick et al.,
2007). Values missing at random were imputed for a particular variable
only if the following conditions were met: (1)
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