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The impact of physical activity on stress reactivity and stress-induced changes in executive control and cerebral oxygenation in school-aged children

English title The impact of physical activity on stress reactivity and stress-induced changes in executive control and cerebral oxygenation in school-aged children
Applicant Ludyga Sebastian
Number 197076
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Departement Sport, Bewegung und Gesundheit Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Neurophysiology and Brain Research
Start/End 01.03.2021 - 29.02.2024
Approved amount 299'716.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Neurophysiology and Brain Research
Psychology

Keywords (4)

fitness; psychosocial stress; physical activity; brain activity

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Einfluss körperlicher Aktivität auf die Stressreaktion von Kindern während psychosozialem Stress
Lay summary

Psychosozialer Stress beeinträchtigt die Gehirnentwicklung und höhere geistige Leistungen. Aktuelle Untersuchungen weisen darauf hin, dass nicht nur Erwachsene, sondern auch vermehrt Kinder häufiger einen hohen Stresslevel angeben. Das ist problematisch, weil stress-bedinge Beeinträchtigungen der höheren geistigen Leistungen sich auf die akademischen Leistungen und psychische Gesundheit übertragen können. Körperliche Aktivität hingegen führt nachweislich zu einer Förderung der höheren geistigen Leistungen. Das Ziel des vorliegenden Projekts ist es, zu überprüfen, ob körperliche Aktivität die Stressantwort hemmen und die Beeinträchtigung dieser Leistungen verhindern kann.

Dazu werden 2 Experimente durchgeführt. In beiden Experimenten absolvieren 108 Mädchen und Knaben (Alter 10-13 Jahre) jeweils einen kindergerechten Stresstest und eine Vergleichsbedingung (Bearbeitung einer stressfreien Aufgabe) in zufälliger Reihenfolge. Davor und danach führen Sie einen computergestützten Test zur Erfassung der höheren geistigen Leistung durch. Simultan wird dabei die Gehirnaktivität mittels Elektroenzephalographie und Nahinfrarotspektroskopie gemessen. Zudem werden in regelmässigen Abständen verschiedene Stressanzeichen mittels Fragebögen, Herzfrequenzmessungen und Speichelproben erfasst. Beim ersten Experiment werden Unterschiede in der Stressantwort zwischen Kindern mit hoher und niedriger körperlicher Aktivität verglichen. Beim zweiten Experiment wird der Einfluss einer einmaligen Ausdauereinheit auf die anschliessende Stressantwort untersucht.

Die Ergebnisse sollen erste Hinweise darauf geben, inwiefern körperliche Aktivität die körperliche und geistige Antwort auf psychosozialen Stress bei Kindern verringern kann. Zudem soll die Verwendung von neurowissenschaftlichen Methoden dazu beitragen, die dafür verantwortlichen Mechanismen zu verstehen.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 11.12.2020

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Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
200840 Entwicklung motorischer Basiskompetenzen in der Kindheit (EMOKK-Studie) - Bedeutung schulischer und ausserschulischer Aspekte 01.07.2021 Project funding
188488 Judo as adjunct therapy for children with ADHD: neurocognitive effects on executive function 01.12.2019 Project funding

Abstract

Background: High levels of psychosocial stress have adverse effects on brain development and executive function. Recent studies have reported high stress levels not only in adults, but also in children, who are suggested to be more vulnerable to stress-induced changes in this cognitive domain. As executive function predicts academic achievement and mental health outcomes, impairments need to be prevented. With regard to life-style interventions, engagement in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) has a high potential to counteract such stress-induced impairments due to the following reasons: higher MVPA has been shown to (I) attenuate stress reactivity and (II) elicit direct positive effects on executive function. However, the potential of both acute and regular MVPA to buffer against the negative consequences of acute psychosocial stress on executive function and underlying neurophysiological indices has not been investigated in humans so far. Moreover, the effects of MVPA on autonomic, adrenocortical and psychological stress reactivity has rarely been examined in school-aged children.Goal and specific objectives: The main goal of the present project is the examination of the potential of two physical activity paradigms (acute and chronic MVPA) to normalize stress reactivity and stress-induced impairments in executive control in children aged 10-13 years. Such changes are examined on a behavioral and neurocognitive level to gain insights into the processes, by which physical activity may buffer against psychosocial stress. Additionally, the effects of physical activity on stress reactivity are assessed on different levels, including the autonomic nervous system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the affective response. Methods: Both studies utilize a randomized, counterbalanced cross-over design with two groups. In study 1, 108 male and female participants are allocated to low (N=54) and high-activity groups (N=54) based on objective assessment of MVPA with accelerometers. Study 2 compares an experimental group (N=54) engaging in a single moderate physical activity bout prior to the experiment, with a control group (N=54). Both studies comprise a screening visit, during which participants’ characteristics and potential confounders, including perceived stress, sleep, psychopathology, socioeconomic status, pubertal status, and mental toughness, are assessed. Additionally, participants complete an experimental and control condition on separate days. Each condition includes a Stroop task with simultaneous EEG-fNIRS prior to and following the Trier Social Stress Test for Children (TSST-C; experimental condition) and reading a story (control condition). Additionally, salivary cortisol, heart rate, heart rate variability and affective responses are assessed at regular intervals or continuously during the experimental and control conditions. Expected results: We expect children with high MVPA (study 1) and those performing a single MVPA bout to show (I) a smaller decrease in executive control, (II) a smaller decrease of the oxygenation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortices (DLPFC), and (III) reduced adrenocortical, autonomic and psychological reactivity in response to psychosocial stress induced by the TSST-C.Significance:This project aims to examine the role of acute and regular MVPA as a cost-effective interventional approach to reduce stress reactivity and/ or counteract stress-induced impairments of executive control in school-aged children. Attention is paid to different neurophysiological processes (e.g. DLPFC oxygenation, conflict monitoring and allocation of attentional resources), so that a first understanding of the pathways, by which MVPA may influence the cognitive response to psychosocial stress, can be gained.
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