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Title: The development of a motor task for measuring attentive functioning and its application to assessing the impact of exercise on childhood attention
Author: Hill, Liam J. B.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2726 1526
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen.
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis reports research which set out to examine whether exercise interventions embedded within school curricula could confer immediate benefits on students’ attentive functions; an aspect of cognition which is important for academic performance. A novel visuo-motor task was first developed to provide a more direct measure of participants’ attentive functioning than previously possible. Participants tracked moving targets on a tablet computer with a stylus, under single- (following one target) and dual-task conditions (intermittently switching between targets in response to a secondary cue-detection task). Manipulations of attentional load during this task affected adult (19-50 years) and children’s (8-12 years) mean accuracy and intra-individual variability. Age differences between these groups also existed, even after adjusting for motor-control differences. In children, outcomes on the task were validated against the Gordon Diagnostic System (a standardised test of sustained attention) and parental reports of children’s attentiveness (measured using standardised questionnaires). Differences in strategic behaviours whilst dual-tasking were also found that were dependent on task difficulty and whether or not a participant had a developmental disorder. Finally, a repeated-measures crossover-design trial (3 sessions one week apart at the same time of day) was conducted in two schools. Children’s (n = 39) visuo-motor task performance after a 15 min aerobic, moderate-to-vigorous intensity, bench-stepping Exercise Intervention was compared against their Baseline performance (assessment on week 1) and their Control performance (i.e. after a 15 min non-physically active Card-Sorting task). Exercise and Control were separate sessions, weeks 2 and 3, counterbalanced for order. Results indicated no differences between visuo-motor attention post-Exercise, post-Control or at Baseline. Two possible interpretations of this finding are: (1) Exercise does not affect attention acutely to a degree likely to be of subsequent benefit to children’s academic performance. (2) Immediate, short-term, benefits from exercise are conferred on other cognitive processes but not sustained or divided attention.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Physical activity ; Exercise for children ; Attention ; Cognition