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Exercise before school reduces ADHD symptoms
Paying attention all day in school as a kid isn’t easy, especially for those who are at a higher risk of ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
A new study from Michigan State University and University of Vermont researchers shows that offering daily before-school, aerobic activities to younger at-risk children could help in reducing the symptoms of ADHD in the classroom and at home. Signs can include inattentiveness, moodiness and difficulty getting along with others.
The study can be found in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.
“Early studies suggest that physical activity can have a positive effect on children who suffer from ADHD,” said Alan Smith, chairperson of MSU’s Department of Kinesiology, who conducted the research along with lead author Betsy Hoza, a psychologist from the University of Vermont.
Previous MSU research has shown improved brain function and better math and reading skills in elementary students who were exposed to a bout of physical activity.
Yet, it’s not as widely known how consistent exercise might improve the broad range of symptoms and impairments associated with the disorder.
Over a 12-week period, Smith and Hoza studied about 200 early elementary school students ranging from kindergarten to second grade that either exhibited signs of ADHD or didn’t. During the trial, students were randomly selected to participate in a group that completed moderate to vigorous physical activity each day before school, or a group that completed more sedentary classroom-type activities.
“Although our findings indicated that all participants showed improvements, children with ADHD risk receiving exercise benefited across a broader range of outcomes than those with sedentary activities.
“Despite the number of remaining questions, physical activity appears to be a promising intervention method for ADHD with well-known benefits to health overall. This gives schools one more good reason to incorporate physical activity into the school day.”
Alan Smith, chairperson, Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University.
Smith indicated that further studies are needed to better understand the frequency and amount of physical activity that can provide benefits to children and added that the effects of exercise may be different based on a child’s age.
The goal of this study was to compare the effects of before school physical activity (PA) and sedentary classroom-based (SC) interventions on the symptoms, behavior, moodiness, and peer functioning of young children (M age = 6.83) at risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD-risk; n = 94) and typically developing children (TD; n = 108). Children were randomly assigned to either PA or SC and participated in the assigned intervention 31 min per day, each school day, over the course of 12 weeks. Parent and teacher ratings of ADHD symptoms (inattention, hyperactivity/impulsivity), oppositional behavior, moodiness, behavior toward peers, and reputation with peers, were used as dependent variables. Primary analyses indicate that the PA intervention was more effective than the SC intervention at reducing inattention and moodiness in the home context. Less conservative follow-up analyses within ADHD status and intervention groups suggest that a PA intervention may reduce impairment associated with ADHD-risk in both home and school domains; interpretive caution is warranted, however, given the liberal approach to these analyses. Unexpectedly, these findings also indicate the potential utility of a before school SC intervention as a tool for managing ADHD symptoms. Inclusion of a no treatment control group in future studies will enable further understanding of PA as an alternative management strategy for ADHD symptoms.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are much more common in males than in females. Molecular alterations within the estrogen receptor (ER) signaling pathway may contribute to the sex difference in ASD, but the extent of such abnormalities in the brain is not known.
Postmortem middle frontal gyrus tissues (13 ASD and 13 control subjects) were used. The protein levels were examined by western blotting. The gene expression was determined by qRT-PCR.
Gene expression analysis identified a 35% decrease in ERβ mRNA expression in the middle frontal gyrus of ASD subjects. In addition, a 38% reduction in aromatase (CYP19A1) mRNA expression was observed in ASD subjects. We also found significant decreases in ER co-activators that included a 34% decrease in SRC-1, a 77% decrease in CBP, and a 52% decrease in P/CAF mRNA levels in ASD subjects relative to controls. There were no differences in the mRNA levels of TIF-2, AIB-1 (ER co-activators), ER co-repressors (SMRT and nCoR) and ERα in the middle frontal gyrus of ASD subjects as compared to controls. We observed significant correlations between ERβ, CYP19A1, and co-activators in the study subjects. Immunoblot analysis further confirmed the changes in ERβ and aromatase at the protein level in the control and ASD subjects.
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