Exercise as a Therapy for Cognitive Aging and Alzheimer's Disease (2017-2018)

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 identifying the molecular mechanisms that mediate these beneficial effects, 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.

This project team sought to understand the basic physiological mechanisms underlying how exercise may be differentially beneficial in males and females. By developing a mouse model of human female aging, this team studied whether exercise at a specific stage of a female’s life is more or less effective in protecting against the brain pathology and cognitive loss associated with aging and Alzheimer’s disease.


Fall 2017 – Summer 2018

Team Outcomes

Presentation at Neuroscience 2018, San Diego, November 3-7, 2018

Manuscript based on initial findings

Exercise as a Therapy for Cognitive Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease (poster by Elizabeth M. Reynolds, Shayal Vashisth, Caitlin Grant, Emilia A. Grzesiak, Sara V. Maurer, Elizabeth A. Finch, Christina L. Williams), presented at Bass Connections Showcase, April 18, 2018

Sara Maurer (Ph.D. Program in Psychology and Neuroscience), Bass Connections Award for Outstanding Mentorship

Caitlin Grant ’19 and Shayal Vashisth ’19, Bass Connections Follow-on Student Research Award; related senior theses

Exercise and the Brain (symposium at Duke, December 1, 2017)

This Team in the News

Bass Connections Showcase Presents Research Highlights from Durham to Malaysia

Three Graduate Students Honored for Outstanding Bass Connections Project Team Mentorship

Meet the 2018 Recipients of Bass Connections Follow-on Research Awards

Bass Connections Team Investigates Benefits of Exercise on the Female Brain

On a Mission to Increase Exercise

Exercise Is Good for Your Head and Might Fight Alzheimer’s

As a student who had never participated in research before, I was nervous for my first day in my lab. Sara [Maurer] immediately created an environment that was supportive and educational. She showed me how to handle the mice in our lab and gave me background information to give me a holistic understanding of the research process.

–Caitlin Grant ’19

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

Team Leaders

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

/graduate Team Members

  • Sara Maurer, Psychology-PHD
  • Elizabeth Reynolds, Biomedical Sciences

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Caitlin Grant, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Emilia Grzesiak, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
  • Shayal Vashisth, Neuroscience (BS)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Carol Colton, School of Medicine-Neurology
  • Kimberly McNally, Health, Wellness and Physical Education
  • Ara Wilson, Arts & Sciences-Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies