Current knowledge about the underlying brain processes of exercise-related benefits on executive functions and the specific contributions of physical activity and aerobic fitness during adolescence is inconclusive. We explored whether and how physical activity and aerobic fitness are associated with the oscillatory dynamics underlying anticipatory spatial attention. We studied whether the link between physical exercise level and cognitive control in adolescents is mediated by task-related oscillatory activity. Magnetoencephalographic alpha oscillations during a modified Posner's cueing paradigm were measured in 59 adolescents (37 females and 22 males, 12–17 years). Accelerometer-measured physical activity and aerobic fitness (20-m shuttle run test) were used to divide the sample into higher- and lower-performing groups. The interhemispheric alpha asymmetry during selective attention was larger in the high than in the low physical activity group, but there was no difference between the high and low aerobic fitness groups. Exploratory mediation analysis suggested that anticipatory interhemispheric asymmetry mediates the association between physical activity status and drift rate in the selective attention task. Higher physical activity was related to increased cue-induced asymmetry, which in turn was associated with less efficient processing of information. Behaviorally, more physically active males showed stronger dependence on the cue, while more fit females showed more efficient processing of information. Our findings suggest that physical activity may be associated with a neural marker of anticipatory attention in adolescents. These findings might help to explain the varying results regarding the association of physical activity and aerobic fitness with attention and inhibition in adolescents.
- Aerobic fitness
- Anticipatory alpha oscillations
- Physical activity
- Selective attention