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Charles Hillman

Speaker at

KEYNOTE LECTURE:
Childhood Physical Activity Effects on Brain Health and Cognition

9:00 - 10:10 15th October, 2022 

Charles Hillman

Department of Psychology, Department of Physical Therapy, Movement, And Rehabilitation Sciences, Northeastern University, USA

Charles Hillman

Speaker at

KEYNOTE LECTURE:
Childhood Physical Activity Effects on Brain Health and Cognition

9:00 - 10:10 15th October, 2022 

Biography

Charles Hillman is a Professor at the Department of Psychology and the Department of Physical Therapy, Movement & Rehabilitation Sciences at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.

He co-directs the Center for Cognitive and Brain Health, which aims to understand the role of lifestyle choices and behavior on the brain and cognition to maintain health and wellbeing as well as the effective functioning of one’s organism across the lifespan. One of prof Hillman’s particular interests is the role of childhood physical activity and excess adiposity on cognitive and brain outcomes. His research involves using a variety of neuroimaging tools.

Charles Hillman received his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland in 2000. He then undertook a position at the University of Illinois, where he was a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health for 16 years. Since 2016 he continues his career at Northeastern University. Professor Hillman has published over 300 refereed journal articles, 15 book chapters, and co-edited a text entitled Functional Neuroimaging in Exercise and Sport Sciences. He has served on an Institute of Medicine of the National Academies committee entitled Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School and was a member of the 2018 Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for America’s Scientific Advisory Committee.

In 2010 prof. Hillman delivered a TED talk about the surprising links between exercise, intelligence, and aging. His contribution to neuroscience has been featured in media including CNN, National Public Radio, Good Morning America, Time, and Newsweek. 

Talk: "Childhood Physical Activity Effects on Brain Health and Cognition"

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 mass 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.

Selected Publications

Donnelly, J.E., Hillman, C.H., Castelli, D., Etnier, J.L., Lee, S., Tomporowski, P., Lambourne, K., Szabo-Reed, A.N., 2016. Physical Activity, Fitness, Cognitive Function, and Academic Achievement in Children: A Systematic Review. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 48, 1197–1222.


Gomez-Pinilla, F., Hillman, C., 2013. The influence of exercise on cognitive abilities. Compr. Physiol. 3, 403–428.


Hillman, C.H., Buck, S.M., Themanson, J.R., Pontifex, M.B., Castelli, D.M., 2009. Aerobic fitness and cognitive development: Event-related brain potential and task  performance indices of executive control in preadolescent children. Dev. Psychol. 45, 114–129. 


Hillman, C.H., Erickson, K.I., Kramer, A.F., 2008. Be smart, exercise your heart: exercise effects on brain and cognition. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 9, 58–65.  


More information

Charles Hillman website

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