Please join Dr. Charles H. Hillman, Northeastern University, as he presents, “Childhood Lifestyle Factors Influence Cognitive and Brain Health.” The lecture will take place on November 13, 2018 as part of the Research Lecture Series in Lecture Hall 2. All are welcome to attend. One hour of Mass CE will be awarded. You are invited to join us for a light reception in Conference Room 1 following the lecture.
Abstract: There is a growing public health burden of unhealthy behaviors (e.g., physical inactivity, excessive energy intake) among children of industrialized nations. Children have become increasingly inactive, leading to concomitant increases in the prevalence of being overweight and unfit. Poor physical activity behaviors during childhood often track throughout life and have implications for the prevalence of several chronic diseases during adulthood. Particularly troubling is the absence of public health concern for the effect of physical inactivity on cognitive and brain health. It is curious that this has not emerged as a larger societal issue, given its clear relation to childhood obesity and other health disorders that have captured public attention. My research program has investigated the relation of health behaviors (e.g., physical activity, exercise) and their related physiological correlates (e.g., aerobic fitness, adiposity) to cognitive and brain health in preadolescent children. My techniques of investigation involve a combination of neuroimaging, behavioral assessments, and scholastic outcomes in an effort to translate basic laboratory findings into everyday life. Central to this translational approach is the identification of etiological substrates of brain regions and networks that are susceptible to health behaviors. As such, the overarching goal of my research is to determine factors that improve cognition, maximize brain health, and promote the effective functioning of individuals as they progress through the lifespan. Findings from my studies have indicated that greater aerobic fitness and healthy body weight are positively related to brain structure and function, cognition, and scholastic achievement. Such discoveries are timely and important for public health concerns related to chronic disease prevention as a function of childhood inactivity and obesity. These findings link pervasive societal concerns with brain health and cognition, and have implications for the educational environment and the context of learning.