Physical Activity and Cognitive Development in Children

  • End date
    Dec 24, 2028
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Columbia University
Updated on 24 October 2022
Accepts healthy volunteers


  1. Compare physical activity and cognitive functions between children having cardiac surgery with an age-matched group of children undergoing non-cardiac surgery, as well as otherwise healthy siblings or best buddies (or age and gender-matched children if no siblings or best buddies available) before surgery and after surgery or six months following initial assessment.
  2. Determine the effects of a structured physical activity program for 6 months following surgery on cognitive functions and adaptive behavior in children following congenital cardiac surgery.
  3. Determine the effects of a structured physical activity program for 12 months following surgery on cognitive functions and adaptive behavior in children following congenital cardiac surgery.
  4. We will perform exploratory analysis to determine whether any effects of a 12-months structured physical activity program on cognitive functions and adaptive behavior persist beyond 12 months after cessation of the program.


Mortality associated with congenital heart defects (CHD) has decreased significantly world-wide over the past decades. As more CHD patients are surviving beyond infancy and childhood, these patients are found to be at significant risk for developmental disabilities and developmental delay. In CHD patients, their neurodevelopmental impairments, as suggested by recent data from the Boston Circulatory Arrest Trial, appear to become more serious with increasing age. As they mature into adolescents and adults, more areas of neurocognitive abnormalities become evident. These abnormalities significantly influence their ability to function independently in their daily living and impact their quality of life. Physical activity has been shown to improve cognitive function in adults and improve attentional inhibition and cognitive flexibility in school-age children between 7 to 9 years of age. An exercise program has also been shown to improve self-reported cognitive functioning and parent-reported social functioning in older children and adolescents (age 10-25 years) with Tetralogy of Fallot or single ventricle physiology. Of note, neuroimaging studies have further documented that physical activity induces an increase in hippocampal volume which corresponds to the observed improvement in memory tasks. Since neurocognitive functions in CHD patients become worse as they get older, any early intervention that can mitigate the neurocognitive impairment in these patients will modify their negative neurodevelopmental trajectory and thus could have a major impact on the mental and cognitive well-being of CHD patients. The purpose of our study is to test the hypothesis that a regular, structured physical activity program as recommended by the American Heart Association will improve cognitive function and adaptive behavior in children with CHD after cardiac surgery.

Condition Congenital Heart Diseases, Children
Treatment structured physical activity program
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT02542683
SponsorColumbia University
Last Modified on24 October 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Congenital Heart Diseases (CHD) Cohort: All children with congenital cyanotic cardiac diseases scheduled for congenital cardiac surgery who are older than 30 months of age
Non-CHD, Surgical Cohort: All children 30 months or older who are undergoing non-cardiac surgery at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), including pediatric general surgery, urological surgery, ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgery, plastic surgery and eye surgery. These children will be recruited before surgery
Non-surgical cohort
Sibling of children of CHD patients within 12 months in age, and 30 months of age or older
Relatives of CHD patients of the same gender within 12 months in age and 30 months of age or older
Best buddies of CHD children within 12 months in age and 30 months of age or older
Children who are matched by age ±6 months who are 30 months of age or older, gender, level parental education and language spoken at home

Exclusion Criteria

Children with known chromosomal syndromes, or known syndromes including but not limited to DiGeorge, Trisomy 21, WIlliams, Noonan and Turner
Children with known physical disabilities
Children with known history of central nervous system (CNS) injury including stroke, birth asphyxia, seizure disorder, intraventricular hemorrhage
Children with abnormal neurological exam by a pediatric physician or nurse practitioner, and confirmed by a pediatric neurologist
Children with tricuspid regurgitation on echocardiography or on cardiac angiography that is moderate or greater
Children with moderate or greater decrease in ventricular function on echocardiography or on cardiac angiography
Children with baseline room air oxygen saturation below 80%
Children who are treated for dysrhythmias or are pacemaker-dependent
Children with history of prematurity. (Non-surgical cohort)
Children with history of more than one episode of hospitalization. (Non-surgical cohort)
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