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Current research projects

The following projects are currently being carried out by graduate students in the Department of Health, Kinesiology & Applied Physiology.

Coupling of neural oscillations in sleep, in relation to cognition and aging

Samuel Gillman, PhD student (Supervisor Dr Thanh Dang-Vu)

Neuronal oscillations dominate the sleeping brain, where they are believed to orchestrate the consolidation of newly formed memories. Age-related cognitive decline may be mediated by disruptions in these mnemonic sleep rhythms. A recently identified feature of neuronal oscillations, theta-gamma phase-amplitude coupling, has been linked with learning and memory processes in animals and humans. Theta-gamma coupling may operate at the intersection of sleep, cognition and aging, mediating the effect of sleep on memory and in turn, the effects of aging on cognition. The goal of this study is to describe phase-amplitude coupling during human sleep, and how it is affected by learning and by aging. Young and elderly participants will complete a memory task and a control task on two non-consecutive nights, followed in each case by a polysomnographic recording of their sleep. Differences in coupling during sleep will be compared across tasks and across age groups, and will be correlated with next-day memory performance. This will be the first study to examine phase-amplitude coupling dynamics during human sleep, and the first to compare them across age groups. In addition, results of this study may elucidate mechanisms of sleep-dependent memory consolidation, and may lead to the identification of an early biomarker of age-related cognitive pathology.

Effects of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia on brain health’ with the following people

Florence Pomares (research associate), Mathilde Reyt (postdoctoral fellow), Kirsten Gong (PhD student), Nyissa Walsh (PhD student), James Garneau (PhD student)

Insomnia is defined by difficulties to fall asleep and maintain sleep with daytime complaints. With more than 10% of the population complaining of chronic primary insomnia, it become urgent to find treatment. Nowadays, cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTi), a multimodal psychological intervention is the best treatment with more than 60% of efficacy. However, not everyone respond positively to the therapy, which might be explained by the heterogeneity of the disorder. To that end, we aimed at understand better the sub-clinical types of insomnia as well as predict response to treatment using objective (EEG, fMRI, actigraphy, inflammatory and circadian markers) as well as subjective measures (questionnaires, sleep diaries). Another focus is also to assess the impact of insomnia and different interventions (CBTi, relaxation) on daytime functioning (memory, attention.

Combined effects of acute exercise and sleep restriction on cognition

Emmanuel Frimpong (postdoctoral fellow), Arsenio Paez (PhD student)

The amount of time spent sleeping has been decreasing, and more than a third of Canadians currently suffer from short or disturbed sleep. Short or disturbed sleep has been shown to lead to poor health (cardiovascular problems, diabetes, or obesity) and cognitive issues (poor attention, concentration and memory).

Sleep and physical activity have a bidirectional link. A diverse range of physical activities has been shown to improve sleep as well as memory. And a good night of sleep is known to enhance memory. To date, no studies have looked at the possible benefits of physical exercise in situations that are challenging for memory, such as sleep restriction. Our proposed study addresses this, as we aim at studying the effects of physical exercise – an intervention known to improve sleep and memory – in partially sleep-deprived individuals.

Association between Endothelial function and Diabetes Type II:

Mahrukh Jamil Msc Candidate; (Supervisor Dr. Simon Bacon)

The endothelium is a monocellular layer that lines the whole circulatory system. They are in direct contact with blood, so they perform some very crucial functions that defines many responses like vascularity, hemostasis, inflammatory response, growth and angiogenesis. The anatomical functioning of the endothelial cells is effected by irregular physiological and anatomical function that make causes dysfunction. Endothelial dysfunction is thought to be the first set of responses for the development of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Some studies support that poor endothelial function give rise to vascular complication and reduced production of chemical moderators which results in diabetes type II. Whereas some studies are in favor of the concept that diabetes type II and insulin resistance cause the dysfunction of endothelial cells. As there are conflicting literature on this subject, the association and temporal plausibility of the two chronic conditions needs to be explored. The objective of this project is to explore the association of development of poor endothelial function and diabetes type II in adults. To achieve this objective, a systematic review will be conducted using the research question conceptualize around the objective and predefine search criteria, keywords and inclusion, exclusion criteria. A meta- analysis will be conducted if two or more homogenous articles are found.

To further explore this association, a statistical analysis will be conducted using the database of REWARD (research on endothelial function in women and men at risk for cardiovascular disease). The database contains the measurement variables of endothelial function quantified through Forearm hyperemic reactivity (FHR) method and diabetes type II blood marker like insulin, diagnosis of diabetes type II with HbA1c levels and creatinine levels. The study has follow-up data of 1, 3 and 5 years with the self-reported status of diabetes type II and medication for diabetes type II. The data base measures will be use to explore the association between independent variable; poor endothelial function and dependent variable; incidence of diabetes type II using a logistic regression analysis. ​

The prescribed work will provide a comprehensive, evidential narration and conclusion for the association of endothelial function and diabetes mellitus type II in adults. The association will open door for new therapeutic targets for people with diabetes type II and poor endothelial function. This proposed study will also help clinician plan treatment for diabetes type II patients to prevent future vascular complications. ​

The association between weight-based teasing from peers and family in childhood and depression in childhood and adulthood: A systematic review.

Erica Szwimer, MSc. candidate (Supervisor: Dr. Angela Alberga)

Over the last several decades, the prevalence of childhood obesity in Canada has increased. Children living with overweight or obesity could experience weight bias, which is the tendency to associate negative attitudes, judgments and beliefs towards a person because of their weight. These negative attitudes and beliefs could translate into discriminatory behaviours, and weight-based teasing is a common form of weight discrimination. Moreover, family members and peers are often the source of weight-based teasing among children. This is concerning due to the adverse associations teasing may have with depression. Research suggested that children who experienced weight-based teasing from family and/or peers had higher depressive symptoms compared to children who were not teased. Teasing from family and peers in childhood may have immediate effects on rates of depression, yet the negative psychological consequences could also emerge in adulthood. It is apparent that some studies have made significant contributions to the understanding of the acute and chronic effects of weight-based teasing in relation to emotional well-being. However, few studies examined the association between weight-based teasing and specifically depression as the primary mental health outcome. In addition, the current body of literature presents conflicting results regarding crucial factors that influence this relationship. For example, it remains unclear whether the frequency of weight-based teasing differs according to sex (males vs. females) and source (family vs. peers). In addition, it is unclear whether depression in response to weight-based teasing differs according to time (short-term vs. long-term), sex (males vs. females) and source (family vs. peers). Therefore, the objective of my project is to i) to examine the frequency of weight-based teasing according to sex and source and ii) to examine the association between weight-based teasing and depression according to time, sex and source. To our knowledge, there has yet to exist a systematic review examining the effects of familial and peer weight-based teasing in childhood and depression in childhood and adulthood. Our systematic review is significant as it can serve to guide the implementation of anti-weight-based teasing policies and programs in both the school and the home to reduce weight-based teasing and its negative effects on mental health in childhood and adulthood.

Changes in Cognitive Function After Exercise-Based Rehabilitation in People with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Brent Rosenstein, MSc candidate (Supervisor Véronique Pepin)

COPD is a progressive disease characterized by chronic obstruction in the airways. Patients with COPD are often caught in a downward spiral that goes from chronic airflow limitation to shortness of breath, activity limitation, deconditioning, and eventually invalidity and poor quality of life. Although COPD cannot currently be cured, it is possible to slow down disease progression with pulmonary rehabilitation (PR). PR, which combines exercise training, self-management education, and psychosocial support, has become widely recognized as a core component in the management of COPD. Exercise training is considered key to successful pulmonary rehabilitation (PR). Current PR guidelines support the use of continuous high-intensity training (CTHI). However, continuous training at the ventilatory threshold (CTVT) and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), are recommended as more tolerable methods. Cognitive impairment is a common comorbidity of COPD. Exercise-training based pulmonary rehabilitation has been proposed as a promising approach to mitigate cognitive decline in people with COPD. The comparative effects of different exercise-training protocols on cognitive function in people with COPD has scarcely been investigated. Therefore, the goal of my project is to compare, in people with COPD, the effects of 12 weeks of three different exercise-training protocols (CTHI, CTVT, and HIIT) on cognitive function.

Sleep Quality and the Rest-Activity Cycle in Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Emilie Chan-Thim, PhD candidate (Supervisors Dr Véronique Pepin and Dr Marie Dumont)

Poor sleep is the third most commonly reported symptom in COPD patients. However, few studies have investigated the relationship between objective daily assessment of sleep and COPD disease severity and prognosis. A component of sleep regulation is influenced by the circadian cycle. A few studies have demonstrated a relationship with the circadian measure of amplitude and worst outcomes in multiple conditions, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and hypertension. However, to our knowledge, no study has reported on the circadian rest-activity cycle in COPD patients. Therefore, the aim of my project is to i) investigate the relationship between sleep and COPD disease severity and prognosis and ii) investigate the relationship between the relative amplitude of the rest-activity cycle and COPD disease severity and prognosis.

Investigation of lower limb muscle reaction to multidiretional perturbation.

Lishani Mahendrarajah MSc candidate (Supervisor Dr Richard DeMont):

The objective of this study is to understand lower limb muscle activity in female athletes prior to, during, and following multidirectioinal perturbations. This information can be used to understand the mechanism of ACL injuries in female athletes and to determine exercise intervention programs targeting leg injury prevention. 

Inter-Observer and Inter-Method Variability in the Determination of the Ventilatory Threshold in Healthy Individuals and Those With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Bruno-Pierre Dubé MD, MSc candidate (Supervisor Dr Véronique Pepin)

The ventilatory threshold is a useful clinical marker of global aerobic fitness, used both for exercise prescription and as a prognostic marker in many diseases. Its identification on an incremental exercise tests relies on manual manipulation of graphical data, and therefore is prone to error. In COPD patients, the ventilatory threshold may be particularly difficult to identify owing to their abnormal respiratory response to exercise. This projects aims to quantify and compare the magnitude of the inter-observer variability in the measurement of the ventilatory threshold in both healthy and COPD subjects. We expect our results to provide more insight about the meaning and usefulness of the measured value of the ventilatory threshold in COPD patients, a finding that could have clinical implications when, for example, an exercise training program is considered for these patients.

Time-Of-Day Variations in Physical Activity in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Zohra Parwanta MSc candidate (Supervisor Dr Véronique Pepin

In previous work from our group, diurnal variations (variations within a day) in lung function and exercise response were found in a considerable proportion of individuals with COPD. It is possible that this subgroup of patients with greater variability have a circadian rhythm with larger amplitude, which may predict a better clinical outcome in COPD, as in other pathologies such as hypertension and cancer. The aim of this study is to examine whether amplitude of the rest-activity cycle (as a measure of circadian rhythms) is associated with physical activity levels in COPD patients. The hypothesis is that COPD patients with a larger amplitude in rest-activity cycle will have greater physical activity levels than those with a smaller amplitude. Levels and patterns of physical activity will also be compared between COPD patients, and healthy controls subjects.

Amplitude of the Rest-Activity Cycle and Disease Severity and Progression in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Emilie Chan-Thim, PhD. candidate (Supervisor Dr Véronique Pepin)

Rest-activity measures, obtained through actigraphy, can be used to calculate amplitude of the rest-activity cycle, an indicator of the internal synchrony between physiological functions and the circadian clock. It has been hypothesized that low amplitudes of the rest-activity cycle may predict worst clinical outcomes; this has been supported in multiple conditions such as in cancer, Alzheimer’s and hypertension. The objective of this project is to investigate the link between amplitude of the rest-activity cycle and variables of disease severity and progression in in individuals with COPD.

Acute Physiological, Symptomatic, and Affective Responses to Different Exercise-Training Protocols and Relationship with Adherence to Pulmonary Rehabilitation in COPD

Amanda K. Rizk, PhD (Supervisor Dr Véronique Pepin)

In healthy individuals, lower exercise intensities are thought to be more enjoyable, leading to better program adherence. It has been hypothesized that, in patients with COPD, exercise intensities associated with less physiological and symptomatic strain may improve affective response compared to higher training intensities, resulting in better exercise adherence to a 12-week pulmonary rehabilitation program. The objectives of this project were to: i) compare, in COPD, the acute physiological, symptomatic, and affective responses to three commonly used exercise-training protocols; ii) examine the association between acute responses and adherence to a 12-week exercise-training program; and iii) investigate whether the relationship between acute responses and adherence is mediated/moderated by affect/vigor.

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