Below is the conference itinerary. Please note that changes may be made up until the day of the conference.

08:00 - 09:00 Registration Foyer of Oscar Peterson Hall
09:00 - 09:15 Opening remarks and welcome address
Dr. Louis Bherer, Scientific Director, PERFORM Centre
Dr. Alan Shepard, President, Concordia University
Dr. Graham Carr, VP Research and Graduate Studies
09:15 - 10:00 Keynote Speaker: Arthur F. Kramer, Ph.D., University of Illinois
Taking a Hike: Train Your Body, Enhance Your Mind and Brain?  

Populations throughout the industrialized world are becoming increasing sedentary as a result of the changing nature of work and leisure activities. As a result of these societal changes increases in diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, and forms of cancer are increasing. Physical activity serves to reduce susceptibility to these diseases. However, increased physical activity also has direct, and relatively rapid effects on cognition and brain health. Such results have now been reported, over the course of several decades, in animal studies of physical activity.

In my presentation I will review research conducted in our laboratory, and the field in general, which has examined the extent to which fitness training and physical activity enhances cognition and brain structure and function of older adults. The presentation will cover both cross-sectional and intervention studies of fitness differences and fitness and physical activity training. Studies which assess cognition via both behavioral measures and non-invasive neuroimaging measures, such as magnetic resonance imaging, functional magnetic resonance imaging, event-related brain potentials, and the event-related optical signal, will be reviewed and discussed. Finally, I will explore the gaps in the human and animal literature on cognitive and brain health and the manner in which they can be addressed in future research.

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Oscar Peterson Hall
10:00 - 10:35 Invited Speaker: Charles H. Hillman, Ph.D., University of Illinois
The relation of childhood health behaviors with brain, cognition, and achievement  

There is a growing public health burden of inactivity among children of industrialized nations. In recent years, children have become increasingly inactive, leading to concomitant increases in the prevalence of being overweight and unfit. Inactivity during childhood often tracks throughout life and has implications for the prevalence of several chronic diseases during adulthood. Of further interest is the absence of public health concern for the effect of physical inactivity on brain health and cognition. It is curious that this has not emerged as a larger societal issue, given its obvious relation to childhood obesity and other inactivity-related disorders that have captured public attention. Further, many school districts have minimized or obviated physical activity opportunities from the school day despite a growing literature demonstrating the benefits of physical activity to cognitive health and learning. Such educational practices are growing in popularity due to budgetary constraints and an increased emphasis placed upon student performance on standardized tests. For more than a decade, my research program has examined the relation of physical activity and other health behaviors with brain and cognition across the lifespan, with particular interest in preadolescent childhood. My techniques of investigation involve a combination of neuroimaging (i.e., electroencephalography [EEG], magnetic resonance imaging [MRI]), behavioral assessments, and scholastic achievement in an effort to translate basic laboratory findings to everyday life. Central to this translational approach to science is the identification of etiological substrates of brain regions and networks that are changed via health behaviors. As such, the overarching goal of my research is to determine factors that improve cognition, maximize health and well-being, and promote the effective functioning of individuals as they progress through the lifespan.

In this presentation, I intend to describe a program of research that utilizes correlational and longitudinal designs to investigate lifestyle factors such as cardiorespiratory fitness and central adiposity on neuroimaging, behavioral, and scholastic achievement measures in preadolescent children. Findings from these studies have indicated that greater aerobic fitness is positively related to brain structure and function, as well as better cognitive performance and scholastic achievement. Alternatively, central adiposity appears negatively related to brain function, behavior, and achievement. Such findings are timely and important for public health concerns related to chronic disease prevention as a function of childhood inactivity and obesity. These findings link these pervasive societal concerns with brain health and cognition, and have implications for the educational environment and the context of learning.

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Oscar Peterson Hall
10:35 - 10:50 Refreshment break Foyer of Oscar Peterson Hall
10:50 - 11:25 Invited Speaker: Dane B. Cook, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin
Psychobiology of pain and exercise in chronic musculoskeletal pain  

Chronic exercise training is one of the few consistently efficacious treatments for chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP), yet acute exercise can result in symptom exacerbation. This paradox between acute and chronic exercise suggests that exercise can be used as a model to understand the psychobiology of CMP. This presentation will cover the acute and chronic aspects of exercise as they relate to pain sensitivity and brain structure and function in patient with CMP. Data will be presented demonstrating: 1) acute increases in pain sensitivity following acute exercise among Gulf War Veterans with CMP and 2) relationships between brain responses to pain and physical activity levels in patients with fibromyalgia. These results will be discussed in relation to an ongoing exercise training trial designed to determine the impact of resistance exercise training on pain symptoms and brain structure and function in Gulf War Veterans with CMP.

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Oscar Peterson Hall
11:25 - 12:00 Invited Speaker: Kirk Erickson, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh
Moderators and mediators of exercise-related brain plasticity  

A growing body of evidence from neuroscience, epidemiology, and kinesiology suggests that physical activity is effective for preventing, delaying, and potentially treating neurocognitive problems throughout the lifespan. Despite the emerging recognition of physical activity as a powerful method to enhance brain health, there is continued confusion from both the public and scientific communities about what the extant research has discovered about the potential for physical activity to improve neurocognitive health and which questions remain unanswered. One of the reasons for this confusion is because of heterogeneity in the ways in which physical activity is assessed, the cognitive tests that are conducted, and individual difference variables that influence its effectiveness.

From this perspective, I will several potential moderators of the effects of exercise on neurocognitive function including genetic, dietary, and intellectual stimulation variables. In addition to important questions about factors moderating the benefits of physical activity there remain many unanswered questions about the mediators of the effect. Thus, in my talk I will also outline several different ways in which mediators can be conceptualized and the evidence supporting the roles for both neurotrophic factors, inflammatory systems, and glucose regulation along with the importance of changes in neuroimaging metrics for enhanced cognitive performance.

I will conclude that physical activity decreases the risk for brain diseases and disorders, ameliorates symptoms, improves function, and increases regional brain volume and that we are beginning to have a better understanding of the factors that both moderate and mediate these associations. Overall, physical activity is an important modifiable lifestyle that carries significant consequences for learning, memory, and brain health for people of all ages.

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Oscar Peterson Hall
12:00 - 13:00 Lunch for all registrants and viewing of scientific poster Loyola Chapel
13:00 - 14:00 Scientific Poster Competition: Presentations by students and judging Loyola Chapel
14:00 - 14:15 Presentation of the Ed Whitlock Award, PERFORM post-doctoral and doctoral fellows Oscar Peterson Hall
14:15 - 15:00 Keynote Speaker: Prof. Dr. Romain Meeusen, FACSM - FECSS, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Exercise, neurotransmitters and neurotrophic factors  

This lecture will give an overview of the research performed during the last 20 year at the department of Human Physiology from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, exploring the influence of exercise on brain functioning.

The concentration of neurotransmitters such as dopamin (DA), noradrenalin (NA), and serotonin (5-HT), increases during exercise. When using the microdialysis technique to monitor the release of neurotransmitters in different brain nuclei during exercise, it is shown that DA, NA and 5-HT release is increased during exercise, and that exercise training decreases basal neurotransmitter concentrations. Monitoring thermoregulation through registration of brain, abdominal and tail temperature and simultaneously measuring neurotransmitter release from the anterior Hypothalamus can give us insight of possible neurotransmitter-induced effects of thermoregulation during exercise. We performed several studies where exercise performance was explored by manipulation brain neurotransmitter concentrations.

Physical exercise can preserve cognitive function in elderly populations, promote functional recovery after CNS traumatic injury, and induce neurogenesis in the adult CNS. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a crucial effector of experience-dependent plasticity. It is a neurotrophin that acts as a regulator of the survival, growth, and differentiation of neurons. We performed several studies where we investigated the effects of exercise on neurogenesis. Exercise increases neurogenesis, however when exercise is performed in a polluted environment these effects are suppressed.

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Oscar Peterson Hall
15:00 - 15:35 Invited Speaker: Bradley J. MacIntosh, Ph.D., University of Toronto
What aerobic exercise does to the brain as measured using magnetic resonance imaging techniques  

The neurobiology of exercise is a field of research that has grown dramatically in recent years. This is driven by a variety of factors, ranging from the aging demographics population among western nations, global increases in obesity and the availability of non-invasive neuroimaging techniques that probe the brain at a macroscopic level but can provide a window into the neurovascular milieu. Many tout aerobic exercise as being able to help the brain -- exercise as a magical elixir -- by improving cerebral blood flow (CBF), for example, yet the scientific evidence is currently playing &lquo;catch-up&rquo;. There is reason for optimism. Target clinical populations include coronary artery disease (CAD) patients, stroke survivors and adults with mild cognitive impairment may have a lot to gain. The outstanding issues in the brain and exercise literature relate to questions such as &lquo;who is likely to show benefit?&rquo; and &lquo;are there vulnerable populations that we have overlooked?&rquo; and &lquo;where in the brain does exercise leave its mark and why?&rquo;.

The research findings I will present represent the building blocks that develop a neuroimaging research platform on exercise. First, I will demonstrate that it is possible to glean useful information on what exercise does to the brain when consider an acute-effects experiment. Within an hour after 20 minutes of recumbent cycling, we detected CBF increases in the motor cortex but post-exercise decreases in the hippocampus and insula. Acute changes in resting state functional connectivity helped corroborate the CBF findings. In another study involving older CAD men, peak aerobic fitness level (VO2-peak) was found to correlate with grey matter volume in the hippocampus and CBF in the putamen, which are regions involved in memory, learning and reward. Time permitting, I will show neuroimaging data from older adults with silent stroke small vessel disease, who tend to straddle CAD/stroke/MCI populations in many ways, but for whom there is little evidence on what can be done to maintain and preserve their brain health. A 6-months exercise randomized controlled trial is currently underway to determine whether exercise can increase CBF in frontal-subcortical grey matter, support regional tissue growth and improve brain activation for this at-risk cohort.

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Oscar Peterson Hall
15:35 - 15:50 Refreshment break Foyer of Oscar Peterson Hall
15:50 - 16:25 Invited Speaker: David A. Raichlen, Ph.D., University of Arizona
Evolutionary links between exercise and the brain  

Recent work suggests that exercise leads to improvements in cognition, changes in brain structure and function, and can reduce cognitive decline during aging. While researchers are beginning to understand how exercise affects the human brain, why the brain and body are linked in this way remains unclear. Here, I explore evidence that the effects of exercise on the brain are due, in part, to humans’ evolutionary history as aerobic athletes. In this talk, I review evidence that natural selection acting on endurance exercise performance affects the evolution of the mammalian brain. These effects are apparent in experimental evolution experiments as well as in large comparative datasets. Based on comparative evidence, I explore the possibility that aerobic activity in our ancestors altered human brain evolution. The hunting and gathering lifestyle adopted by human ancestors approximately two million years ago required a large increase in aerobic activity. The links between exercise and the brain suggest that a significant portion of human neurobiology may have evolved due to selection on features unrelated to cognitive performance and may be tied to the adoption of a novel lifestyle during human evolution.

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Oscar Peterson Hall
16:25 - 17:00 Invited Speaker: Priv.-Doz. Dr. Dr. Stefan Schneider, German Sport University
Exercise and the Brain: enhancing space mission safety, increasing academic achievement and preventing neurodegenerative diseases.  

Currently two major challenges are impacting human health in the western societies, one being a move towards a sedentary society, the second one being longevity. Both have a considerable impact on physical as well as mental health.

There is increasing evidence that physical activity does not only improve physical but also mental (cognitive and affective) health and physical activity is also discussed playing a prominent role in preventing neurodegeneration.

Living in extreme environments like Space or Antarctica allows for a time-lapse assessment of the effects of ageing and a sedentary lifestyle on mental performance and well-being. A transfer of these results into everyday life (e.g. school sport, exercise for the elderly) allows emphasizing the importance of an active life-style and regular physical activity for brain health and stressing its relevance for socio-economic and health-political decisions of the upcoming years.

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Oscar Peterson Hall

17:00 -

Presentation of Poster Competition Awards and closing remarks

Note: all presentations will be in English.

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