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Full NameProfessor Aine Kelly
Organisation:Trinity College Dublin
- neuroscience and mental health
- Sports and Exercise Medicine
The increased prevalence of sedentary lifestyles across the population in people of all ages is a present and growing risk to public health. The fact that regular exercise protects against development of a range of non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular and metabolic disease, is clear. Evidence also links regular physical activity with decreased risk of dementia and cognitive impairment in old age. The specific impacts of exercise on brain health at a cellular level are the focus of my research. In my laboratory we work mainly on animal models to assess the consequences of regular exercise on cognitive function and the underlying cellular mechanisms.
We have a particular interest in the potential role of neurogenesis, the birth of new neurons in the adult brain, in mediating the effects of exercise on cognitive function throughout the lifespan. Other strands of research in the laboratory also have an exercise focus; recent projects have assessed the impact of exercise on cognitive function in human subjects, while an ongoing multidisciplinary collaborative project aims to identify cognitive and blood-borne markers of mild brain injury that may aid in the management of sports?related concussion.
There is growing evidence that a healthy lifestyle may decrease the rate of cognitive decline seen with aging and that exercise interventions, particularly if they are prolonged, modify risk factors for cognitive decline. However, the exercise intensity, frequency and duration that is optimal for health improvement has yet to be clarified, as have the underlying cellular mechanisms. The use of animal models may shed light on the neuronal and cognitive consequences of regular physical activity. In this project we will address the effects of varying intensity of exercise early in life on cognitive outcomes in old age. The time required to devote to exercise can be a factor influencing the likelihood of people to participate in exercise. We will assess whether short bouts of aerobic exercise prove effective in inducing similar, or even better cognitive outcomes than more prolonged bouts of moderate exercise in laboratory mice, and assess the underlying biological mechanisms, potentially including neurogenesis, preservation of brain volume and cerebral perfusion.
Assessment procedures are vital in the management of concussion and mild traumatic brain injury. Blood biomarkers have been proposed as viable objective assessment tools in brain injury. The purpose of this study is to develop additional objective biological tests for concussion in a sports injury setting to add to the existing battery of tests that presently includes cognitive and clinical assessment. Participants will be elite male professional rugby players, with elite athletes from a non-contact sport acting as age-matched athletic controls. Blood samples will be drawn pre-, during-, and post-season and assessed for expression of a range of proteins and metabolites of clinical interest. In parallel, a measure of multi-sensory integration that has not been used to date in a sports setting will be assessed as a potential objective cognitive indicator of brain injury.