Active, Fit and Smart – Effects of physical activity and fitness on the cognitive prerequisites of learning (AFIS)

Physical activity and fitness may positively affect cognitive skills (especially executive functions) and brain health at different stages of life. From some few studies conducted in children we know that physically active children show improvements in academic performance, which could be due to the enhancement of executive functions.

Several neuroscientific studies using animal models also support this point of view. They have found that exercise enable the activity of some neurotrophic factors which subsequently enable structural and functional changes in the brain. But, in humans, there is lack of studies binding the aforementioned behavioral results with its brain mechanisms.

The purpose of this study is to determine the associations of physical activity and fitness with structural and functional properties of the brain underlying executive functions in children and adults. For this intention, MRI and MEG techniques will be used to study structural and functional exercise - induced brain changes in different conditions such as rest and inhibitory functions.

Project team



  • Academy of Finland (TULOS)


  • Prof. Ole Jensen, University of Birningham, UK
  • Prof. Lauri Parkkonen, Aalto University
  • Dr. Ville Renvall
  • Dr. Jaana Hiltunen
  • Dr. Tuija Tammelin, LIKES
  • Dr. Heidi Syväoja, LIKES
  • Prof. Heikki Kainulainen