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Title: The effect of acute physical activity on memory for vocabulary and linguistic rule learning
Author: Pastorino Campos, Carla Andrea
ISNI:       0000 0004 7968 5507
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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The purpose of this project was to observe the effect of a short bout of physical activity (PA) on the encoding and consolidation of linguistic information. In two sets of experiments, participants engaged in 20 to 30 minutes of moderate, aerobic PA in close temporal proximity to a memory task that targeted either vocabulary or linguistic rule learning. Vocabulary items were taught explicitly, in a manner thought to engage declarative memory systems. The rule-learning task, on the other hand, combined an explicit rule with an implicitly-taught rule, meant to be learnt by repeated exposure. This task intended to engage non-declarative, implicit memory systems. These two learning activities were chosen so as to observe whether PA would have selective effects on different memory systems and, by extension, on different aspects of language learning. In addition to looking at the general effects of PA on memory for language learning, factors that could mediate or moderate the effects of the PA intervention were also manipulated and measured throughout the experiments. For vocabulary, these included the influence of age (children vs. adults), gender (female vs. male), daily PA levels (high vs. low), memory retrieval process (recall vs. recognition), language aspect learnt (word form vs. meaning) and sleep-dependent consolidation (sleep vs. no-sleep). For the rule-learning, the factors manipulated were exercise timing (pre- or post-learning), age, gender and sleep-dependent consolidation. The results suggest that the effect of PA, when present, is not unmoderated. In general terms, it was found that PA enhanced performance on the explicit (vocabulary) but not implicit (rule) learning tasks. In addition, the influence of PA on the vocabulary learning task was different for participants of different genders and age groups and on different types of vocabulary and memory tasks (word form vs. meaning learning, recall vs. recognition). These findings will be discussed in relation to the current models of PA and cognition, advancing some possible theoretical explanations for the selective nature of the effects and proposing practical applications for the results.
Supervisor: Williams, John Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: physical activity ; exercise ; memory ; memory consolidation ; language learning ; vocabulary learning ; rule learning