Cognitive Control Exertion & Motor Coordination

Effects of Cognitive Control Exertion and Motor Coordination on Task Self-Efficacy and Muscular Endurance Performance in Children

Background

Cognitive control is an umbrella term referring to various mental processes (self-control, self-regulation, and executive functioning) responsible for goal-directed behaviour. Cognitive control has been implicated in various adaptive behaviours including healthy eating, weight control, school and work performance, participation in physical activity, as well as sport and exercise performance. However, exerting cognitive control is effortful and, in turn, children, adolescents, and adults often experience failures in cognitive control (e.g., resisting the temptation to eat junk food) after previously exerting cognitive control for a prolonged period of time.

Similar to cognitive control, motor coordination abilities are also associated with various adaptive behaviours such as academic performance and participation in physical activity across the lifespan. Emerging research shows a strong connection between brain regions responsible for cognitive control (i.e., prefrontal cortex) and motor coordination (i.e., cerebellum) suggesting that the areas communicate with each other to facilitate both cognitive and motor performance.

 

What is this study about?

This, lab-based, study investigated the effects of cognitive control exertion and motor coordination on task self-efficacy and endurance exercise performance in 7-14 year old children.

 

What did this study find?

We found that children who performed an effortful cognitive control task (i.e., Stroop task) for 10-minutes showed subsequent reductions in task self-efficacy (for exercise performance) and shorter performance on a physical endurance task. However, children in the control condition, who performed a less demanding cognitive task, did not show any reductions in task self-efficacy or exercise performance.

Interestingly, children with poor motor coordination abilities showed the greatest reductions in exercise performance following the Stroop task. Alternatively, higher levels of motor coordination appeared to buffer this negative effect.

 

What does this mean?

Findings from this study highlight the close connection between brain regions responsible for cognition and motor behaviour, and show how the communication between these regions can be temporarily perturbed. Thus, we should be mindful about the types of tasks children are performing in succession when in different settings or learning environments (e.g., school-based; sport, exercise or physical activity-based) as the performance of one task (cognitive or physical) can negatively affect the performance of a subsequent task (cognitive or physical). This is especially true among children with lower motor coordination abilities.

 

How do I get more information about this study?

Please contact Jeff Graham by email at grahajd2@mcmaster.ca

 

Publication

Graham, J. D., Li, Y-C., Bray, S. R., & Cairney, J. (revise and resubmit). Effects of cognitive control exertion and motor coordination on task self-efficacy and muscular endurance performance in children. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.