Julia C. Basso
Assistant Professor Virginia Tech
I am a neuroscientist whose primary scientific passion centers around elucidating the body-brain connection and harnessing the power of the body to improve the brain. My diverse training in neuroscience, dance, and yoga have led me to develop a research program that focuses on the examination of the interconnection between the body and brain. I am currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise and Director of The Embodied Brain Lab at Virginia Tech.
The two-fold aims of The Embodied Brian Lab are: 1) to identify the neural and behavioral mechanisms through which mind-body-movement practices optimize brain health and wellness; and 2) to identify the neural mechanisms that optimize motivational engagement in physical activity and other health behaviors. The laboratory will conduct these examinations in both healthy and clinical human populations as well as preclinical animal models.
My research in both humans and rodents has established a bidirectional relationship between exercise and the brain. Specifically, I discovered that the medial prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens regulate the motivation for physical activity. In addition, I have shown that both acute and long-term physical activity improves both cognitive functioning and affective state and that increases in brain state synchrony underlie the functional-based improvements with exercise. Further, I have shown that mindfulness-based interventions improve the brain in several ways including enhanced mood state, attention, working memory, and recognition memory, as well as decreased stress responsivity to acute psychosocial stressors. Current research projects focus on 1) using episodic future thinking in combination with healthy lifestyle change to optimize health outcomes in diabetes and pregnancy; 2) examining the involvement of sharp wave ripples and neurogenesis on exercise-induced improvements in learning and memory; and 3) investigating the effects of brain-compatible dance education on affective state, cognitive functioning, and social connectivity.