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Psychology Doctoral Dissertation Defense: Ileana Pacheco-Colón

Monday, May 24 at 10:00am to 12:00pm

Virtual Event

Exercise, Cognition, and Cannabis Use in Adolescents 

Heavy cannabis use has been associated with neurocognitive impairment and decline in memory and executive functioning. On the other hand, exercise has been linked to positive effects on brain and cognitive health, as well as to better substance use outcomes. Despite this, little is known about the ways in which exercise could influence cannabis-related outcomes among adolescents.  

Through three studies, the current dissertation examines interrelations among exercise, cognition, and cannabis use in children and adolescents to determine whether exercise can prevent or ameliorate cannabis-related cognitive decline and other adverse outcomes. The first study examined whether exercise ameliorates cannabis-related declines in episodic memory in a sample of 401 adolescents. Results from multivariate latent growth curve models replicated findings that greater frequency of cannabis use is associated with declines in episodic memory, but neither initial levels nor change in exercise moderated these associations. The second study examined associations between exercise and cannabis-related outcomes (e.g., cannabis use frequency, cannabis use disorder, cannabis-related problems) after a 6-month period, and tested the mediating role of exercise effects on decision-making in a sample of 387 adolescents. Results from prospective mediation analyses revealed that more exercise predicted greater cannabis use frequency, but not use disorder or problems. There was no evidence that decision-making mediated the associations between exercise and cannabis-related outcomes, and effects of exercise on decision-making were better accounted for by demographics. The third study examined cross-sectional associations between exercise, task-related brain activation, and executive functioning in a sample of 7,733 preadolescent children. Results from cross-sectional mediation analyses indicated that the association between exercise and executive functioning was largely accounted for by sociodemographic factors, and did not support a mediating role for task-related activation of frontoparietal and salience networks.  

Together, findings suggest that effects of exercise on neurocognitive functioning in pediatric populations are small, may be more readily observed within the domain of executive functioning, and may be better explained by sociodemographic characteristics.

Major Professor: Raul Gonzalez

Dial-In Information

Zoom (Meeting ID: 920 9471 2066)

Event Type



Students, Faculty & Staff, General Public


College of Arts, Sciences & Education, Department of Psychology


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