Aerobic Exercise Program and FASD

Exercise bike

The Department of Psychology, Department of Exercise Science, Physical Health and Education, and the Division of Medical Sciences at the University of Victoria have teamed up to study the effect of aerobic exercise on cognition, behaviour, and physical markers of brain health in children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. 

Exercise, the Brain, and FASD

Evidence from both animal models and human studies indicates that regular cardiovascular exercise can increase the learning and memory capacity of both the developing and the aged brain. Moreover, this increase seems to be related to exercise-induced increases in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a chemical that helps brain cells thrive and survive. In FASD, BDNF is not as abundant in the brain as it usually is. Children with FASD also tend to have problems with learning and memory. In animal models of FASD, the capacity for improved learning and memory has been increased by having animals engage in regular aerobic exercise. The results are dramatic and are coupled to an increase in BDNF.

The Current Study:  Using Cardiovascular Exercise to Elevate Levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and Enhance Cognition in Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

This study is aimed at examining the impact of an aerobic exercise intervention on learning, memory, mood, behaviour, and levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and cortisol (a stress hormone) in children with FASD. 

We are looking for children, aged 10-16 years to participate in an engaging, 12-week exercise program (30 minutes per session, 3 times/week), based around fun computer games and stationary bikes.  Check out the bikes/games in action by clicking here!

Participation also involves your child completing a number of physical, cognitive, and psychological tests at three time points.  As a parent/guardian, you would also be asked to fill out some short paper-and-pencil measures about your child’s behaviour and mood. Blood and saliva would also be collected twice (before and after the exercise program).  After each exercise and testing session, your child will get to choose a prize for his or her participation.  We would also provide you with money to cover the costs of parking.  Testing sessions take place over 2 days, lasting about 3 hours each, and are held at the University of Victoria. 

Please sign up on this site if you are interested in finding out more about the study.  You may also contact us by email at jkirwin@uvic.ca or kkerns@uvic.ca.  Your interest and participation are greatly appreciated!