PSY 1057 Topics in Biological and Health Psychology: Exercise and the Brain

Class:  Topics in Biological and Health Psychology:  Exercise and the Brain

Instructor: Kirk Erickson, PhD

Catalog #:  PSY 1057-1020

Class #:  26862

Credits:  3

Time:   3:00-4:16

Location:  339 Cathedral of Learning


Course description:

“Neuroplasticity” is a very frequently used scientific term, but there remains confusion as to what neuroplasticity is and how we can take advantage of it.  One of the best ways of taking advantage of neuroplasticity is by engaging in modest amounts of physical activity.  In this class, we will focus on the evidence that physical activity and exercise might positively influence a number of markers of brain health and improve symptoms and function in people with psychiatric and neurologic conditions.  Research about the effects of exercise on brain, mood, and cognition will be assessed in normal functioning children and adults, as well as in special populations including:  dementia, ADHD, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorders, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.

We will discuss how exercise influences the brain on a molecular/cellular level as well as cognitive and behavioral levels in the hope of bridging research from a variety of disciplines. Implications for public policies and therapies will also be discussed.  Class discussion and presentations will be utilized in addition to reading original research reports.

Senior level undergraduates interested in the course are encouraged to enroll or email the instructor for further information. 


The brain is a plastic organ and exercise has the capacity to modulate its functions.  Scientists have learned a lot about the potential for exercise to modify the brain and behavior (i.e., mood and cognition) but there remains confusion as to what is known and what we have yet to learn.  From animal models of disease to assessments of physical activity in humans we have now become more confident about the effects of exercise on brain and behavior. This class will focus on what we’ve learned and what we have yet to learn by reading original research reports, reviews, and then having discussions about the results, conclusions, and limitations during class.