Study protocol and rationale of the "Cogni-action project" a cross-sectional and randomized controlled trial about physical activity, brain health, cognition, and educational achievement in schoolchildren

BMC Pediatr. 2019 Jul 26;19(1):260. doi: 10.1186/s12887-019-1639-8.


Background: Education and health are crucial topics for public policies as both largely determine the future wellbeing of the society. Currently, several studies recognize that physical activity (PA) benefits brain health in children. However, most of these studies have not been carried out in developing countries or lack the transference into the education field. The Cogni-Action Project is divided into two stages, a cross-sectional study and a crossover-randomized trial. The aim of the first part is to establish the associations of PA, sedentarism, and physical fitness with brain structure and function, cognitive performance and academic achievement in Chilean schoolchildren (10-13 years-old). The aim of the second part is to determinate the acute effects of three PA protocols on neuroelectric indices during a working memory and a reading task.

Methods: PA and sedentarism will be self-reported and objectively-assessed with accelerometers in a representative subsample, whilst physical fitness will be evaluated through the ALPHA fitness test battery. Brain structure and function will be assessed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in a randomized subsample. Cognitive performance will be assessed through the NeuroCognitive Performance Test, and academic achievement by school grades. In the second part 32 adolescents (12-13 year-old) will be cross-over randomized to these condition (i) "Moderate-Intensity Continuous Training" (MICT), (ii) "Cooperative High-Intensity Interval Training" (C-HIIT), and (iii) Sedentary condition. Neuroelectric indices will be measures by electroencephalogram (EEG) and eye-tracking, working memory by n-back task and reading comprehension by a reading task.

Discussion: The main strength of this project is that, to our knowledge, this is the first study analysing the potential association of PA, sedentarism, and physical fitness on brain structure and function, cognitive performance, and academic achievement in a developing country, which presents an important sociocultural gap. For this purpose, this project will use advanced technologies in neuroimaging (MRI), electrophysiology (EEG), and eye-tracking, as well as objective and quality measurements of several physical and cognitive health outcomes.

Trial registration: identifier: NCT03894241 Date of register: March 28, 2019. Retrospectively Registered.

Keywords: Academic performance; Cognition; Fitness; Magnetic resonance imaging; Physical activity; Sedentary lifestyle.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Success*
  • Accelerometry
  • Adolescent
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Child
  • Chile
  • Cognition*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electroencephalography
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sedentary Behavior

Associated data