Invited Speakers

We are very pleased to welcome a distinguished group of international speakers to this inaugural event, representing a variety of disciplines relating to physical activity and brain functions.

Dane B. Cook, Ph.D.   [show bio]

Associate Professor, Kinesiology

Chair, Psychobiology and Behavior Interest Group of the American College of Sports Medicine

University of Wisconsin, USA

Dr. Dane B Cook is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Co-Director of the Exercise Psychology Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. He also has an appointment as a Health Science Specialist at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. Dr. Cook is exercise scientist with post-doctoral training neuroscience and functional MRI methods.

His research uses physical activity, exercise and functional brain imaging methods in concert to better understand the impact of exercise on brain health particularly how chronic musculoskeletal pain and fatigue are maintained. His work detailing abnormal brain responses to experimental pain stimuli in fibromyalgia was one of the first studies to demonstrate abnormal brain processing of both painful and non-painful stimuli in fibromyalgia providing evidence of central nervous system dysregulation in chronic widespread pain patients. His work in chronic fatigue syndrome has demonstrated augmented brain responses during cognitive processing and altered cardiopulmonary responses to submaximal exercise compared to sedentary controls. Dr. Cook's research has been funded by the NIH, DOD, and Department of Veterans Affairs, including his current neuroimaging study using exercise training to probe central nervous system mechanisms of pain in GVs with chronic muscle pain.

Topic: Psychobiology of pain and exercise in chronic musculoskeletal pain
[show abstract]

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.

Kirk Erickson, Ph.D.   [show bio]

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

University of Pittsburgh, USA

Dr. Kirk Erickson is as an Associate Professor of Psychology and Geriatric Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and a member of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition and Center for Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Erickson is the Principal Investigator of the Brain Aging and Cognitive Health laboratory where he manages a team of 20 post-docs, students, and research staff. Dr. Erickson has conducted research in areas of molecular neuroscience, genetics, cognitive psychology, and human neuroscience. He has published over 100 articles and book chapters discussing changes in cognition and the brain that occur in late adulthood.

Dr. Erickson and his colleagues have found that participating in consistent routines of aerobic exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and being intellectually engaged can both prevent and reverse cognitive and brain deterioration. More recently, he has extended his programmatic line of research to include studies in children and young adulthood and examining the links between adiposity and brain health. These results have appeared on numerous news programs, magazines, and television shows including CNN, ABC, Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, Men's Health, Newsweek, WebMD, and Saturday Night Live. He has lectured both nationally and internationally and has been awarded several fellowships and grants to support his research initiative.

Topic: Moderators and mediators of exercise-related brain plasticity
[show abstract]

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.

Charles H. Hillman, Ph.D.   [show bio]

Professor, Departments of Kinesiology & Community Health, Psychology, and Internal Medicine

Affiliate of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the Division of Neuroscience, and the Division of Nutritional Sciences

University of Illinois, USA

Charles H. Hillman, Ph.D. received his doctoral degree from the University of Maryland in 2000, and then joined the faculty at the University of Illinois, where he is currently a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health. He also holds appointments in the Department of Psychology, the Department of Internal Medicine, the Neuroscience Program, the Division of Nutritional Sciences, and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

He directs the Neurocognitive Kinesiology Laboratory, which has the mission of determining lifestyle factors that improve cognition, maximize health and well-being, and promote the effective functioning of individuals as they progress through the human lifespan.

Dr. Hillman has published more than 90 journal articles, 10 book chapters, and co-edited a text on neuroimaging in exercise and sport sciences. His work has been funded by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), Abbott Nutrition, the NIKE Foundation, and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA) of the Department of Defense (DOD).

Dr. Hillman’s primary research emphasis is to better understand health behaviors that relate to increased neurocognitive health and functioning of preadolescent children. His research has focused on the effects of acute and chronic physical activity participation, aerobic fitness, and overweight and obesity to basic changes in brain health that may lead to better cognition and scholastic performance. Dr. Hillman’s research program is directed toward timely and important public health issues related to chronic disease prevention as a function of childhood inactivity and obesity. His research has taken a novel approach in linking these pervasive societal issues with brain health and cognition, and has implications for the educational environment and the context of learning. The overall goal of his research program is to provide an empirical basis for improving the physical health of individuals during development in order to maximize brain health and learning, which in turn stands to improve cognitive health and effective function across the lifespan.

Topic: The relation of childhood health behaviors with brain, cognition, and achievement
[show abstract]

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.

Arthur F. Kramer, Ph.D.   [show bio]

Professor, Department of Psychology

Director of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science & Technology and the Swanlund Chair and Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

University of Illinois, USA

Arthur Kramer is the Director of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science & Technology and the Swanlund Chair and Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Illinois. He received his Ph.D. in Cognitive/Experimental Psychology from the University of Illinois in 1984. He holds appointments in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience program, and the Beckman Institute. Professor Kramer's research projects include topics in Cognitive Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience, Aging, and Human Factors.

A major focus of his labs recent research is the understanding and enhancement of cognitive and neural plasticity across the lifespan. He is a former Associate Editor of Perception and Psychophysics and is currently a member of six editorial boards. Professor Kramer is also a fellow of the American Psychological Association, American Psychological Society, a former member of the executive committee of the International Society of Attention and Performance, and a recipient of a NIH Ten Year MERIT Award.

Professor Kramer's research has been featured in a long list of print, radio and electronic media including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, CBS Evening News, Today Show, NPR and Saturday Night Live.

Topic: Taking a Hike: Train Your Body, Enhance Your Mind and Brain?
[show abstract]

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.

Bradley J. MacIntosh, Ph.D.   [show bio]

Assistant Professor, Medical Biophysics

University of Toronto, Canada

Scientist, Physical & Brain Sciences

Sunnybrook Research Institute

Neuroimaging Scientist, Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery

Sunnybrook Research Institute

Bradley MacIntosh is a Scientist at Sunnybrook Research Institute in the Brain Sciences research program & Physical Sciences platform. Brad is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto, which is also where he completed his PhD in 2006. After spending 2 years in the Physics lab at the University of Oxford’s Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB), under the supervision of Professor Peter Jezzard, Brad returned to Toronto and took up a post as a Neuroimaging Scientist at the Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery at Sunnybrook Research Institute. He collaborates extensively on research projects surrounding functional & vascular imaging, stroke and neurodegenerative disease.

Topic: What aerobic exercise does to the brain as measured using magnetic resonance imaging techniques
[show abstract]

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.

Prof. Dr. Romain Meeusen, FACSM - FECSS   [show bio]

Professor, Department of Human Physiology and Sportsmedicine

Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

Prof Dr Romain Meeusen, (PhD) is head of the department of Human Physiology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. His research interest is focussed on "Exercise and the Brain in Health & Disease" exploring the influence of neurotransmitters on human performance, training, rehabilitation. Recent work is on Thermoregulation, Neurogenesis, Cognition in health & disease. He teaches on exercise physiology, training & coaching and sports physiotherapy. Romain published over 380 articles and book chapters in peer-reviewed journals, 18 books on sport physiotherapy, and gave lectures at more than 730 national and international conferences.

He is President of the Belgian Society of Kinesiology, and past President of the Belgian Federation of Sports Physiotherapy. He is former Board member of the European College of Sport Science ECSS (2000-2013), and of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) (2010-2013). In 2009 he received the Belgian 'Francqui Chair' at the Université Libre de Bruxelles on 'Exercise and the Brain'. He is also holder of two named lecturing chairs at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He is director of the Human Performance lab of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, where he works with several top athletes, and is scientific advisor of the 'Lotto Cycling Institute' (Lotto-Belisol professional cycling team).

Topic: Exercise, neurotransmitters and neurotrophic factors
[show abstract]

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.

David A. Raichlen, Ph.D.   [show bio]

Associate Professor, School of Anthropology

University of Arizona, USA

David Raichlen is a broadly trained biological anthropologist who is interested in the origins and evolution of the human lineage. He received a B.S. from Duke University in 1998. He received his M.A. in 2000 and his Ph.D. in 2004 from the University of Texas at Austin. His research focuses on the evolution of human and nonhuman primate locomotion, evolutionary physiology, and the evolution of the human brain. Through studies of comparative physiology, ecology, and evolution, Dr. Raichlen has explored how and why exercise and physical activity improve health and how the mismatch between our current lifestyle and our evolutionary history impacts well-being today.

Topic: Evolutionary links between exercise and the brain
[show abstract]

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.

Priv.-Doz. Dr. Dr. Stefan Schneider   [show bio]

Institute for Movement and Neurosciences, Center for Health and Integrative Physiology in Space

German Sport University, Cologne, Germany

After finishing his master’s degree is sport science and theology and his PhD studies, Dr. Schneider was appointed to the Neuroscience Workgroup of the Institute of Movement and Neurociences at the German Sport University Cologne in 2003. Currently he is director of the Centre of Health and Integrative Physiology in Space, located at the German Sport University.

His fundamental work interest is on neuro-cognitive and neuro-affective performance in extreme environments (Antarctica, ISS) as well as the correlation between brain activity, exercise and health following a holistic body-mind interaction.

In the last four years Dr. Schneider has delivered more than two dozen international peer reviewed publications and has spoken on conferences around the globe.

Dr. Schneider holds an adjunct Professorship at University of the Sunshine Coast (AUS) and has recently been awarded with Germanys most renowned “Science Award of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB)”. Apart from his significant teaching load, he is currently supervising seven PhD candidates one of whom has recently been awarded twice the European College of Sport Sciences Young Investigator Award.

Dr. Schneider is member of the European College of Sport Science (ECSS), Sport Medicine Australia (SMA) and the American College of Sport Science (ACSM). He is a peer reviewer for a number of national and international institutions and journals.

Beside his medical interest Dr. Schneider has been performed as comedian for more than 20 years and has been nominated for several awards. Since 2013 he holds a second PhD in theology.

Topic: Exercise and the Brain: enhancing space mission safety, increasing academic achievement and preventing neurodegenerative diseases.
[show abstract]

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.

Call for Poster Presentations!

Come present your Preventative Health research.

Best poster presentation awards for students!

Questions? Contact us at

Home | Register | Speakers | Program | Location | Accomodations | Poster Presentations | Media | Gallery | About

Concordia University
Copyright © 2018
Concordia University