Skip to content

More Than 225 Attended Dec. 1 Exercise & the Brain Symposium

About This Event:

More than 225 researchers attended the Dec. 1 "Exercise & the Brain" Symposium. Interest was so high that organizers had to close registration when attendance reached capacity a week before the event. 

Physical exercise has emerged as a powerful strategy for promoting and maintaining brain health and resilience throughout the lifespan and for staving off the cognitive dysfunction associated with neurological and neurodegenerative diseases and brain injury. Moreover, recent advances are identifying molecular mechanisms that mediate these salutary effects, providing increasing clinical evidence for the efficacy of this approach in humans, and devising novel therapeutic strategies that include exercise as a key component for treating neurological conditions.This interdisciplinary symposium will highlight recent advances in our understanding of the impact of physical activity and exercise on brain function and health and will explore key basic and clinical research, translational implementation, and policy issues in this emerging field. Speakers include Henriette van Praag (NIH/NIA), Laura Baker (Wake Forest University), Monika Fleshner (University of Colorado), and Duke investigators.

Please see full agenda, below.

Contacts:  Elizabeth A. Finch, Ph.D. ( and Christina L. Williams, Ph.D. (

Agenda:  “Exercise and the Brain” Symposium                            

8:30-9:00         Breakfast Buffet

9:00-9:15         Greetings and Introductory Remarks

9:15-10:00       Henriette van Praag, PhD, National Institute  of Aging, NIH:  “Exercise, Brain Plasticity, and Memory Function”

10:00-10:20     Kathleen Welsh-Bohmer, PhD, Duke University:  “Lifestyle Changes to Promote Brain Health: Lessons from the Cache County Utah Study“

10:20-10:40     Christina L. Williams, PhD, Duke University: “Aerobic Exercise is Necessary and Sufficient for Improved Memory and Neuroplasticity“

10:40-10:50     Zachary Zenko, PhD, Duke University: “Promoting Exercise Behavior in the 21st Century: A Behavioral-Economic Approach”

10:50-11:10     Coffee Break

11:10-11:45     Michelle Voss, PhD, University of Iowa:  "Exercise Effects on the Brain and Cognition: A Systems Perspective"

11:45-12:05     Patrick Smith, PhD, Duke University: “Hearts and Minds: Lifestyle Interventions for Vascular and Cognitive Health”

12:05-12:35     Daniel Pomp, PhD, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: “Born To Run: Genetic Predisposition to Voluntary Exercise in Mouse Models”

12:35-1:35       Lunch Buffet and Poster Session

1:35-2:15         Monika Fleshner, PhD, University of Colorado: “Early Life Exercise Promotes Favorable Changes in Gut Microbial Ecology, Persistent Stress Robustness, and Metabolic Health”

2:15-2:35         Deborah Muoio, PhD, Duke University:  "Exercise and Metabolic Fitness in Skeletal Muscle and Beyond"

2:35-3:15         Laura Baker, PhD, Wake Forest University: “Exercise, is it Worth the Sweat to Protect Brain Health? Implications for Therapeutics to Slow or Prevent AD”

3:15-3:30         Kim Huffman, MD PhD, Duke University: “Overviews of the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Investigation (MoTrPAc) and a Proposed Neurocognitive Ancillary Study (MoTrPAc-MB)”

3:30-3:45         Daniel Blazer, MD PhD, Duke University: “Exercise and Cognitive Impairment: Findings from Two National Academy Reports”

3:45-4:15        Panel Discussion with Speakers and Audience

4:15-5:00         Reception and Poster Session


  • Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS)
  • Duke School of Medicine-Interdisciplinary Colloquia
  • Duke Department of Psychology & Neuroscience
  • Office of the Provost
  • Bass Connections in Brain & Society
  • North Carolina Biotechnology Center