Bowen receives grant to study exercise, brain health connection

Photo of Bowen Pamela

By Pareasa Rahimi

University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing Associate Professor Pamela G. Bowen, PhD, CRNP, FNP-BC (BSN 1988, MSN 1992, PhD 2012), has received a $300,000 grant from the McCance Center for Brain Health at Mass General Brigham-Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at UAB to study the effects of exercise on brain health. Bowen is a Scientist at the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the UAB Heersink School of Medicine.

As Principal Investigator and Project Director of the two-year project, “An Exercise Intervention to Improve Overall Brain Health,” Bowen and her collaborators will collect preliminary data to demonstrate the direct impact of exercise on cardiorespiratory fitness, specifically hypertension, and its broader effect across other health risk factors, consequently improving overall brain health.

“The brain defines us as humans and allows us to function in our daily lives. Most occurrences of cognitive decline, dementia and stroke can be delayed or even averted if we take charge of our own health care,” Bowen said. “We want participants to appreciate and incorporate health promotion strategies into their daily lives, such as exercise, because small health changes can have a huge influence on long-term health outcomes. According to research, reducing risk factors such as high blood pressure and adopting healthy lifestyle practices such as exercise can minimize the incidence of cognitive impairment.”

Bowen’s team will apply the McCance Brain Care Score as the primary outcome measure for the study, which is based on physical, lifestyle and social emotional factors. The project will also involve a partnership with the UAB Center for Exercise Medicine and the Department of Optometry and Vision Science in the UAB School of Optometry.

“Alzheimer's disease and other dementias are expected to grow in prevalence from 6.7 million people today to 13.8 million by 2060. Developing therapies to prevent, improve and preserve general brain health is critical to keeping our nation cognitively healthy. This project's interdisciplinary team approach to brain health care makes me proud since the findings of this study could have practical significance for the prevention and treatment of cognitive impairment, as well as identifying brain health indicators and discovering exercise programs that can prevent brain disease.”

Collaborators on the project include Heersink School of Medicine Professor and Director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute Ronald M. Lazar, PhD, FAAN, FAHA, as Co-Principal Investigator; Heersink School of Medicine Associate Professor Roy Martin, PhD; Heersink School of Medicine Associate Professor Thomas Buford, PhD, FACSM, FAHA, FGSA; and School of Optometry Assistant Professor Edmund Arthur, OD, PHD, FAAO, as Co-Investigators.

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