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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Little Rock, Arkansas » Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #216285

Title: ERP correlates of mental arithmetic in preadolescents: influence of ability and effects of morning nutrition


Submitted to: Psychophysiology
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/19/2007
Publication Date: 9/15/2007
Citation: Pivik, R.T. 2007. ERP correlates of mental arithmetic in preadolescents: Influence of ability and effects of morning nutrition [abstract]. Psychophysiology. 44(S1):S103.

Interpretive Summary: This study looked at the effects of eating or skipping breakfast on brain responses in healthy 8-11 year old children while they were doing simple mental arithmetic. Children were randomly divided into two groups, and it happened that the basic math skills of those assigned to the group that skipped breakfast were better than those in the group that ate breakfast. Children were tested in the morning first while all were fasting and then again after they had either eaten or skipped breakfast. The performance of both groups was better on the second compared with their first tests, and improvement was greater in children who ate breakfast. Also, group differences in brain potentials present when both groups were fasting were greatly reduced during the second test. These findings suggest that eating breakfast makes brain processes used to make simple math calculations more efficient.

Technical Abstract: The effects of morning nutritional status on ERP correlates of mental arithmetic were studied in preadolescents differing in experience (age) and mathematical skills. Children [right-handed; IQ > 80), randomly assigned to treatment [eat (B) or skip (SB) breakfast (each, n = 41)], were sub-grouped by age [8.8 +/- .41 yrs (B: n = 12; SB, n = 9), 9.7 +/- .52 yrs. (B, n = 15; SB, n = 18), 10.5 +/- .54 yrs. (B, n = 14; SB, n = 14). At enrollment math skills [WRAT Arithmetic scores; timed simple addition, subtraction math test] were superior in SB subjects. Addition and subtraction problems (75 each; randomized; 1-2 digit integers] followed by 3 possible answers (simultaneously displayed) were sequentially presented on a monitor (.2 sec each; button press to indicate answer). Subjects were tested first while fasting and again after treatment. Artifact-free recordings (F3, F4, C3, C4, P3, P4) to correct-answer addition problems were digitized and analyzed off-line. Statistical analyses included ANOVA procedures with post-hoc t-tests. Initial (fasting) response potentials [site–specific N1,P1, P2, P3, N4, early (500-750 ms), late (755 ms-1000 ms) slow waves] generally became more positive with age and within age were more positive-going in B subjects. Significant (p < .05) within-age, between-group amplitude and latency effects were generally restricted to components occurring in the first 400 ms. Eating breakfast attenuated or eliminated initial fasting between-group ERP differences. These findings suggest that morning nutrition facilitates processes involved in mental calculations.