Exercise Therapy and Brain Health: Implications for Alzheimer's Disease and Aging (2018-2019)

Physical activity and exercise have emerged as important factors associated with lower risks of cognitive decline in normal aging and neurodegenerative disease. Recent advances are providing clinical evidence for the efficacy of exercise in preserving brain function in humans and devising novel therapeutic strategies that include exercise for treating neurological conditions. However, despite evidence for sex differences in the effects of exercise on cognition and brain physiology, few studies have focused on the molecular and cellular mechanisms through which exercise differentially affects the male and female brain, and few exercise therapies have optimized programs for men and for women.

This Bass Connections project team investigated the ability of exercise to delay or attenuate neurodegeneration and cognitive decline. Team members used a new mouse model of female aging that included menopause in an Alzheimer’s model mouse to assess the ability of exercise at specific stages of a female’s life to delay or prevent the development of Alzheimer’s neuropathology and cognitive decline. The team explored the cellular and molecular mechanisms that mediate the effects of exercise on the brain and periphery (e.g., skeletal muscle and heart), focusing on neuroprotection from cognitive aging, neurodegeneration and neurological injury. Team members also worked at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center with patients with memory issues in an exercise-based program. The team plans to continue work in Fall 2019 with the hopes of publishing a large paper. 


Fall 2018 – Summer 2019  

Team Outputs

A Translational Approach to a Therapeutic Intervention with Physical Activity for Neurological/Cognitive Dysfunction (poster by Irene Koc, Syed Ameen Ahmad, Janai Williams, Elizabeth Finch, Katherine Hall, Christina L. Williams, presented at Bass Connections Showcase, Duke University, April 17, 2019)

Gradual Loss of Ovarian Function Exacerbates Age Dependent Cognitive Dysfunction in an Alzheimer’s Disease Mouse Model (poster by Sara  Maurer, Shayal Vashisth, Caitlin Grant, Elizabeth Reynolds, Emilia Grzesiak, Teresa Ju, Carol Colton, Elizabeth Finch, Christina Williams), presented at Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, November 3-7 2018, San Diego, CA, and at Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience Poster Session, November 4, 2018, San Diego,CA)

Gradual Loss of Ovarian Function as a Risk Factor in Alzheimer’s Disease (poster by Shayal Vashisth, presented at Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, November 3-7 2018, San Diego, CA)

Exercise as Neuroprotection in a Female Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease (poster by Caitlin Grant, presented at Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, November 3-7 2018, San Diego, CA)

This Team in the News

Meet the 2019 Recipients of Bass Connections Student Research Awards

See related teams, Exercise Therapy and Brain Networks: Implications for Alzheimer's Disease (2019-2020) and  Exercise as Therapy for Cognitive Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease (2017-2018).

Graphic of female person jumping rope

Team Leaders

  • Elizabeth A. Finch, School of Medicine-Medicine
  • Katherine Hall, School of Medicine-Medicine:Geriatrics
  • Christina L. Williams, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience

/graduate Team Members

  • Sara Maurer, Psychology-PHD
  • Janai Williams, Psychology-PHD, Psychology-AM

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Syed Ahmad, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Caitlin Grant, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Irene Koc, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Shayal Vashisth, Neuroscience (BS)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Ara Wilson, Arts & Sciences-Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Durham VA Health Care System