During my first month of placement, I attended a school to undertake data collection with a member of Exeter University for her dissertation. I feel it is really important to get involved where you can on your placement, especially if it’s to do with research. Getting involved with research is beneficial as it can help you in your final year with your dissertation, seeing real life how you collect different types of data and analysing it. Learning and correcting any problems they may come across. Although we do learn about these things in our first two years at uni, it is a good refresher and you could pick up any extra tips or tricks for your dissertation. It can also boost your CV and employability, as any research now is so important for the future in healthcare.
This particular research looked at whether the timing of exercise (performed in the morning, or afternoon) affects a child’s cognitive function. This is because some researchers are saying should children be going into school an hour later in the morning as their brain function is better in the afternoon, so therefore this would enhance their learning and use the extra hour at the end of the day.
Our study was carried out 3 days per week over a 3-week period. Day 1 no exercise (which was the control). Day 2 morning exercise and Day 3 afternoon exercise. The exercise sessions were 10 minutes long and consisted of: 10 repeats of a 10 second sprint + 50 second recovery. Participants completed online cognitive function tests both before and after exercise, which each lasted around 10 minutes. The schematic below shows a typical day.
Cognitive tests are assessments of the cognitive capabilities of humans and other animals. Tests administered to humans include various forms of IQ tests. The cognitive tests the children did were the Go-No-Go test, The Stroop test and the N-back test (I will explain these in another blog with the results).
In addition, not only was this for the student’s dissertation, the aim was for it to be also published. This proposition excited me as I could add this to my CV, hopefully boosting my employability.
To allow for publication, we needed 60 full data sets, which would provide enough power. If a study is underpowered, it will be statistically inconclusive and may make the whole protocol a failure. However, after our 9 days we only had 19 full sets of data. This was mainly because of the pupils not completing all cognitive tests correctly. They may have used the wrong username and password so therefore we couldn’t log in to get their results. The biggest challenge was that individual pupils had to complete all four tests on three consecutive days correctly for them to have a complete set of data, if they do one test incorrectly on one day, it renders the whole data set void. So, we had to go back to the school to ensure we captured sufficient data.
In the coming weeks, myself and the dissertation student will start analysing the results to see whether the timing of exercise has any effect on their cognitive function.