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Background: A growing literature demonstrates the beneficial effects of aerobic exercise on higher-cognition during development. This study sought to investigate the specificity of the effects of acute aerobic exercise on attentional processing during development. This study also investigated whether maturation would interact with the effect of acute exercise on attentional processing.
Methods: Event-related potentials (ERPs) evoked by a 3-stimulus visual oddball task, were recorded in 8-9 (n=16) and 11-12 year-old (n=16) children. Two ERP components, each reflecting different attentional processes were studied (i.e., P3a and P3b). The P3b reflects attentional resource allocation during stimulus engagement, and the P3a reflects the orienting of focal attention to novel or distracting information. On separate days, and in a counter balance manner, the children completed the oddball task two times, once at following rest and once following 30 minutes of moderate aerobic (cycling) exercise.
Results: Relative to rest, the amplitude of the P3b was significantly greater following exercise for both age groups. No significant differences were observed for the amplitude or the latency of the P3a.
Conclusion: The present findings suggest that, regardless of age, acute aerobic exercise in children selectively benefits the neural resources underlying attentional resource allocation during stimulus engagement, with no influence on attentional orienting.