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Effects of physical activity on brain function, cognition, and psychopathology in children with ADHD

   Department of Psychology

   Wednesday, March 08, 2023  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders among children, affecting 7.2% of children globally and 5% in the UK. In the UK, this means that at least 1-2 children have ADHD in a class of 30. Deficits in higher-order cognitions (e.g., inhibitory control, working memory, multi-tasking) represent the core deficits in ADHD, which could result in worse academic performance and higher risks of behavioral problems. In children with ADHD, physical activity has been shown to improve higher-order cognitions, academic performance, and psychosocial behaviors. However, the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying the positive effects of physical activity are underexplored. Further, to date the effective protocols of physical activity that can maximize physical activity induced cognitive and physical benefits remain to be elucidated. A better understanding of the effective protocols of physical activity as well as the underlying neurocognitive mechanisms will enable the development of effective lifestyle interventions and strategies to benefit cognition, learning, and health in children with ADHD.

This PhD project will have two primary aims. First, we aim to establish the neurocognitive changes that can drive the effects of physical activity on cognition and learning by studying a) specific neural processes relating to attention, executive function, and memory measured by EEG and b) arousal regulation assessed by heart-rate variability. We will, then, examine whether changes in these neurocognitive mechanisms mediate the effects of physical activity on academic productivity and behaviors in children with ADHD. Second, we will be seeking effective protocols of physical activity that can maximize the physical activity induced benefits to brain, cognition, and learning. Specifically, we will be looking at the effects of cognitive-motor physical activities (e.g., football, exergames) across brain function, cognition, and academic attainment and seeking the possibility to implement home- or school-based interventions.

Overall, the project will provide expertise in a range of techniques that will assess fitness (e.g., VO2max), neuroelectric markers (e.g., EEG), arousal regulation (e.g., HRV), psychopathology (e.g., externalizing problems, ADHD symptoms), and academic productivity and classroom-related behavior. The project will also provide expertise in implementing and administrating different protocols of physical activity and exercise trainings (e.g., aerobic exercise, cognitive-motor exercise). The research will be conducted in a multi-disciplinary team across the Department of Psychology and Department of Applied and Human Sciences at Kingston University London, as well as potential external collaborators (e.g., King’s College London). Students may also have the opportunity to analyze existing dataset (the UK ALSPAC dataset) when appropriate. The exact program of work will be established between the candidate and the lead supervisor following discussion. In addition to research training, PhD students at Kingston are likely to be offered paid teaching opportunities as part of their training.

Candidates should have a master’s degree in a relevant area to the project, such as developmental psychology, psychiatry, cognitive neuroscience, behavioral science, and/or exercise science. Applicants will have excellent practical laboratory skills for working with child volunteers and colleagues across different research disciplines in a research setting. Evidence of research skills and laboratory experience is required. Also, experience in writing codes and scripts in different data processing environments (e.g., MATLAB, R, Python) is strongly desirable.

Prospective students should email Dr Hsieh () with your CV and include a personal statement outlining your research experience, interests, and goals (failure to do so will decrease the likelihood to receive a response from Dr Hsieh). Such communication will clarify issues regarding research directions, funding, and other issues that you might have questions about.

Relevant papers to support this project:

  1. Chueh, T. Y., Hsieh, S. S., Tsai, Y. J., Yu, C. L., Hung, C. L., Benzing, V., …& Hung, T. M. (2022). Effects of a single bout of moderate- to vigorous physical activity on executive functions in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 58: 102097.
  2. Chueh, T. Y., Hsieh, S. S., Tsai, Y. J., Yu, C. L., Huang, C. J., & Hung, T. M. (2021). The relationship between internalizing problems and acute exercise duration in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: the role of frontal alpha asymmetry. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 118: 104063.
  3. Tsai, Y. J., Hsieh, S. S., Huang, C. J., & Hung, T. M. (2021). Dose-response effects of acute aerobic exercise intensity on inhibitory control in children with Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 15: 617596.
  4. Yu, C. L., Hsieh, S. S., Chueh, T. Y., Huang, C. J., Hillman, C. H., & Hung, T. M. (2020). The effects of acute aerobic exercise on inhibitory control and resting-state heart rate variability in children with ADHD. Scientific Reports, 10: 19958.
  5. Hsieh, S. S., Chueh, T. Y., Morris, T. P., Kao, S. C., Westfall, D. R., Raine, L. B., …& Hillman, C. H. (2020). Greater childhood cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with better top-down cognitive control: a midfrontal theta oscillation study. Psychophysiology, 57: e13678.
  6. Yu, C. L., Chueh, T. Y., Hsieh, S. S., Tsai, Y. J., Hung, C. L., Huang, C. J., …& Hung, T. M. (2019). Motor competence moderates relationship between moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and resting EEG in children with ADHD. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 17: 100302.

Funding Notes

Please see below for detailed information of PhD studentships competition for October 2023 intake:
View Website
Deadline of application: 8th March 2023


Dr. Hsieh's lab page (Brain, Resilience, Exercise, and Development Lab) https://sites.google.com/view/breadlab/home?authuser=0

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