Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain signals link physical fitness to better language skills in kids

Date:
June 3, 2014
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
Children who are physically fit have faster and more robust neuro-electrical brain responses during reading than their less-fit peers, researchers report. These differences correspond with better language skills in the children who are more fit, and occur whether they're reading straightforward sentences or sentences that contain errors of grammar or syntax.

The researchers tracked brain activity in participants using electroencephalography, which captures signals from dozens of electrodes on the scalp.
Credit: Charles Hillman

Children who are physically fit have faster and more robust neuro-electrical brain responses during reading than their less-fit peers, researchers report.

Related Articles


These differences correspond with better language skills in the children who are more fit, and occur whether they're reading straightforward sentences or sentences that contain errors of grammar or syntax.

The new findings, reported in the journal Brain and Cognition, do not prove that higher fitness directly influences the changes seen in the electrical activity of the brain, the researchers say, but offer a potential mechanism to explain why fitness correlates so closely with better cognitive performance on a variety of tasks.

"All we know is there is something different about higher and lower fit kids," said University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Charles Hillman, who led the research with graduate student Mark Scudder and psychology professor Kara Federmeier. "Now whether that difference is caused by fitness or maybe some third variable that (affects) both fitness and language processing, we don't know yet."

The researchers used electroencephalography (EEG), placing an electrode cap on the scalp to capture some of the electrical impulses associated with brain activity. The squiggly readouts from the electrodes look like seismic readings captured during an earthquake, and characteristic wave patterns are associated with different tasks.

These patterns are called "event-related potentials" (ERPs), and vary according to the person being evaluated and the nature of the stimulus, Scudder said.

For example, if you hear or read a word in a sentence that makes sense ("You wear shoes on your feet"), the component of the brain waveform known as the N400 is less pronounced than if you read a sentence in which the word no longer makes sense ("At school we sing shoes and dance," for example), Scudder said.

"We focused on the N400 because it is associated with the processing of the meaning of a word," he said. "And then we also looked at another ERP, the P600, which is associated with the grammatical rules of a sentence." Federmeier, a study co-author, is an expert in the neurobiological basis of language. Her work inspired the new analysis.

The researchers found that children who were more fit (as measured by oxygen uptake during exercise) had higher amplitude N400 and P600 waves than their less-fit peers when reading normal or nonsensical sentences. The N400 also had shorter latency in children who were more fit, suggesting that they processed the same information more quickly than their peers.

Most importantly, the researchers said, these differences in brain activity corresponded to better reading performance and language comprehension in the children who were more fit.

"Previous reports have shown that greater N400 amplitude is seen in higher-ability readers," Scudder said.

"Our study shows that the brain function of higher fit kids is different, in the sense that they appear to be able to better allocate resources in the brain towards aspects of cognition that support reading comprehension," Hillman said.

More work must be done to tease out the causes of improved cognition in kids who are more fit, Hillman said, but the new findings add to a growing body of research that finds strong links between fitness and healthy brain function.

Many studies conducted in the last decade, on children and older adults, "have repeatedly demonstrated an effect of increases in either physical activity in one's lifestyle or improvements in aerobic fitness, and the implications of those health behaviors for brain structure, brain function and cognitive performance," Hillman said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The original article was written by Diana Yates. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mark R. Scudder, Kara D. Federmeier, Lauren B. Raine, Artur Direito, Jeremy K. Boyd, Charles H. Hillman. The association between aerobic fitness and language processing in children: Implications for academic achievement. Brain and Cognition, 2014; 87: 140 DOI: 10.1016/j.bandc.2014.03.016

Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Brain signals link physical fitness to better language skills in kids." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140603114321.htm>.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2014, June 3). Brain signals link physical fitness to better language skills in kids. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140603114321.htm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Brain signals link physical fitness to better language skills in kids." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140603114321.htm (accessed January 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, January 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Binge-Watching TV Linked To Loneliness

Binge-Watching TV Linked To Loneliness

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) Researchers at University of Texas at Austin found a link between binge-watching TV shows and feelings of loneliness and depression. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Signs You Might Be The Passive Aggressive Friend

Signs You Might Be The Passive Aggressive Friend

BuzzFeed (Jan. 28, 2015) "No, I&apos;m not mad. Why, are you mad?" Video provided by BuzzFeed
Powered by NewsLook.com
City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

The Toronto Star (Jan. 27, 2015) Model schools are rethinking how they engage with the community to help enhance the lives of the students and their parents. Video provided by The Toronto Star
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Rooftop Comedy (Jan. 26, 2015) A man in Texas saved every penny he found for 65 years, and this week he finally cashed them in. Bank tellers at Prosperity Bank in Slaton, Texas were shocked when Ira Keys arrived at their bank with over 500 pounds of loose pennies stored in coffee cans. After more than an hour of sorting and counting, it turned out the 81 year-old was in possession of 81,600 pennies, or $816. And he&apos;s got more at home! Video provided by Rooftop Comedy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins