Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Barbara Burch (Director), Jie Zhang, Cheryl Davis

Degree Program

Educational Leadership Doctoral Program


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Degree Type

Doctor of Education


This study seeks to establish groundwork for a new definition of learning based on neurogenesis capable of guiding future educational policy and practice. The purpose of the research was to: (1) produce separate increases in neurogenesis and intelligence, (2) measure the changes in neurogenesis using protein biomarkers, and (3) correlate increases in levels of the protein biomarkers with increases in intelligence. The study employed a randomized pretest-posttest, control/comparison group research design. Thirty-eight fourth- and fifth-grade students with diverse academic needs were divided into three experimental groups: chess, exercise, and combined; with an additional control group. Pre-post measures included intelligence (RSPM) and two serum proteins (BDNF) and (VEGF). Multiple one-way ANOVAs between the groups with post-hoc Bonferroni pairwise correction discovered significant differences on post-IQ scores (1) between chess and control; (2) between those groups that received chess treatment and those that did not; and (3) between those groups that received chess and/or exercise treatment versus control. Paired sample t-tests found the exercise group and the combined group significantly increased BDNF pre-post. A Pearson Product Moment correlation revealed that the control group had the only significant post-test correlation between RSPM and BDNF (p = .049). Chess and exercise treatment led to increases in intelligence and biomarker levels associated with neurogenesis, as evidenced by increased RSPM and BDNF measures. The results of this research suggest that a novel process whereby protein biomarkers such as BDNF and VEGF may be useful as a potential measure of neurogenesis in young children. This research successfully produced increases in protein biomarkers in an attempt to correlate neurogenesis to intelligence in human subjects. Exercise treatment initiated increases in protein biomarkers, while chess treatment increased intelligence. Both chess and exercise treatment may be beneficial to increase efficiency of neural networks associated with intelligence in a school-age population.


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