Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MSc)


Kinesiology and Physical Education

Program Name/Specialization

Cognitive Neuroscience


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Michael Cinelli

Advisor Role


Second Advisor

Dr. Jayne Kalmar

Advisor Role

Thesis Advisory Committee

Third Advisor

Dr. Peter Tiidus

Advisor Role

Thesis Advisory Committee


Following a concussion, cognitive deficits have been shown to last longer than symptom resolution. Currently clinicians rely heavily on symptom emergence following the fundamental exercises of the return to play (RTP) protocol, which may leave athletes at risk of returning to play too early if cognitive deficits have not been detected. The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of exercise on choice reaction time (CRT) both at rest and following an acute exercise in 3 populations: non-concussed (NC), recently concussed (RC), and post-concussion syndrome (PCS) individuals. A CRT task in the form of an iPad application measured each individual’s decision-making capabilities at four blocks: (1) 10 minutes prior to exercise, (2) Immediately prior to exercise, (3) immediately post exercise, and (4) 5 minutes post exercise. Participants were also fitted with an eye-tracking system during CRT task performance at rest in order to assess higher levels of cognitive processing. Results demonstrated a facilitative effect of learning and exercise arousal on CRT task performance in both NC and PCS but not in RC. Average RT in RC was not significantly different from NC while average RT in PCS was found to be significantly higher than NC. Gaze behaviour was significantly worse in PCS compared to NC while RC and NC were not significantly different. The absence of symptoms does not inherently mean that cognitive performance under acute physical stress has completely recovered in recently concussed individuals. On the other hand, PCS individuals continue to experience concussion-related symptoms, but appear to display partially recovered cognitive performance. Findings from the current study encourage the use of cognitive assessments following acute exercise during the RTP protocol in order to detect possibly lingering cognitive deficits.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season