Physical activity and brain health, E-PABS

The research group Physical activity and brain health, E-PABS, studies physical activity, sustainability, and brain health in collaboration with businesses, healthcare, and schools.

Brain health in population

The group of researchers how patterns of activity, sedentariness, and sleep can support psychological well-being and thinking abilities in different phases of life: among those who are currently well and those in need of rehabilitation.

We want to understand the underlying physiological and psychological mechanisms, how physical activity patterns related to brain health in specific parts of the population, and how a sustainable way at school, work, and leisure can promote physical activity.

Practical and sustainable collaborations

The research aims to develop knowledge about when in life, how, and under which conditions physical activity can benefit or disadvantage brain function and health.

Our research can make life better for people. Therefore, we develop new knowledge in practical and sustainable collaborations with partners who can use the research results to improve their services, products, and working methods.

Research questions

  • What are the pathways for how everyday physical activity and exercise affect the brain and its function?
  • How should effective, sustainable and realistic behavior change interventions be designed and implemented in school contexts, health care, and workplaces?

Research themes

Here you will find the themes that are included in this project.

We want to identify the pathways for how everyday activity and exercise affect the brain and its function. Within the theme, knowledge is developed about the neurophysiological effects of physical activity, as well as what intensities and patterns of physical activity are needed to promote cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and biochemical pathways for brain health, in individuals with or without neurological or psychiatric illnesses.

Responsible researcher

Maria Ekblom

Physical activity epidemiology examines how ill health and health relate to the extent and type of physical activity in large groups of people. We are also interested in how genetic, psychological, social, and physical factors co-vary with how much people move physically. We also drive method development around how to best measure the extent of physical activity and sedentary behavior in large groups and obtain contextual information about the circumstances under which people move.

Responsible researcher

Örjan Ekblom

The research within the theme aims to develop and evaluate effective, sustainable and realistic behavior change efforts in school contexts and workplaces.

The project includes a review and review of the research literature regarding evidence-based behavior change techniques. Based on this review and workshops with the business partners, interventions (efforts to change) will be developed in collaboration with the business partners and evaluated in smaller pilot projects to test feasibility.

Responsible researcher

Magnus Lindwall

Research projects

Here you will find the research projects that are ongoing.

In this project, the overall goal is to expand knowledge about the connection between fitness, and change in fitness, during different parts of the life span and brain health later in life.

The project uses an extensive database of collected health data, which is combined with various national registers with data relating to different brain health outcomes such as stroke, depression, and dementia. How gender, age, and other lifestyles affect will also study possible connections. The project has been granted ethical approval.

Responsible researcher

Elin Ekblom Bak

Project period

2022–2023

Collaborative partners

Participating researchers at GIH are Magnus Lindwall, Örjan Ekblom and Camilla Wiklund.

Participating partners are the Health Profile Institute, Abbvie, Bioarctic and Monark exercise.

Research theme

Physical acticity and its relationship to brain health throughout life

In Sweden, a new stress-related diagnosis, Fatigue Syndrome (UMS), was introduced in the Swedish version of ICD-10 in 2005, and has since rapidly increased. The condition is long-lasting and disabling, characterized by noticeable and persistent fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and reduced cognitive function.

This project aims to obtain new knowledge about physical activity's immediate physiological and psychological effects on people with diagnozed UMS.

Responsible researcher

Victoria Blom

Project period

2022–2025

Collaborative partners

Participating researchers at GIH are Jenny Kling, Olga Tarassova, Örjan Ekblom, Maria Ekblom, Amanda Lönn, and Yiwen Jiang.

Participating business partners are Avonova health, Monark exercise and Itrim.

Research theme

Sustainable behavorial changes for brain health

Previous studies are lacking on how heredity and environment influence the relationship between the physical activity pattern and mental health.

The project will elucidate the relationship between detailed measures of physical activity, mental health, and neuropsychiatric functional variations in a twin material cross-sectionally and longitudinally. We will also study how heredity and environment affect the biological activity pattern itself.

Responsible researcher

Örjan Ekblom

Project period

2022–2028

Collaborative partners

Participating researchers at GIH are Camilla Wiklund, Maria Ekblom, Rui Wang, Victoria Blom, Amanda Lönn and Marjan Pontén.

Participating corporate partners are Skandia, IKEA and SATS.

Research theme

Physical acticity and its relationship to brain health throughout life.

The positive effects of exercise on brain function are largely attributed to the growth factor BDNF whose levels increase in the blood immediately after exercise. Although there is a lot of research on exercise and BDNF, there is currently a lack of knowledge, for example, about which tissues form BDNF during training, whether the intensity is necessary, and what molecular factors are behind it.

The project intends to answer these and more questions by having young, healthy individuals cycle at different intensities while arterial blood and blood leaving the brain and muscles are taken for analysis. The project is very important for understanding how exercise improves brain function.

Responsible researcher

Marcus Moberg

Project period

2022–2024

Collaborative partners

Participating researchers at GIH are Olga Tarassova, Maria Ekblom, Abram Katz and Yiwen Jiang.

Participating corporate partners are Bioarctic, Abbvie and Monark exercise.

Research theme

Neurophysiological pathways from movement habits to brain health.

health of wheelchair users who have a spinal cord injury and are physically inactive. Great emphasis is placed on developing safe and healthy exercises that can be performed while sitting. Acute effects of performing activity breaks with these exercises are evaluated on biochemical and cerebrovascular mechanisms.

Responsible researcher

Anna Bjerkefors

Project period

2023–2025

Collaborative partners

Participating researchers at GIH are Marcus Moberg, Yiwen Jiang, and Maria Ekblom.

Participating partners are Permobil, Bioarctic, Rekryteringsgruppen Aktiv rehabilitating and Spinalis.

Research theme

Neurophysiological pathways from movement habits to brain health.

Knowledge of the biological mechanisms underlying the positive effects of physical activity on cognitive ability is limited. One possibility is that physical activity affects neurodegenerative processes in the brain. In this project, we collaborate with BioArctic to measure neurodegenerative markers in blood samples from studies conducted at GIH.

The project aims to explore whether there are relationships between these markers and fitness, physical activity and cognition measures.

Responsible researcher

Jonna Nilsson Horre

Project period

2022–2024

Collaborative partners

Participating researchers at GIH are Marcus Moberg, Yiwen Jiang, Maria Ekblom, Abram Katz and Rui Wang.

Participating partners are Bioarctic and Abbvie.

Research theme

Neurophysiological pathways from movement habits to brain health

The project aims to evaluate whether an intervention improves mental and physical health, cognition, and school performance in young people.

Substudy 1

Studying effects of a cluster-randomized school-based intervention. About fifty schools with students in highschool will participate. The intervention is carried out during an extended school day, 60 minutes three times a week, during a school year.

It includes:

  • different types of physical activities,
  • homework support with a movement break,
  • walking with an audiobook.

Substudy 2

Conduct a process evaluation of promoting and hindering factors.

Responsible researcher

Gisela Nyberg

Project period

2021–2025

Collaborative partners

Participating researchers at GIH are Björg Helgadottir, Örjan Ekblom, Maria Ekblom.

Participating from Karolinska Institutet is Susanne Andermo. Participating partners are Skandia, Storytel, SATS and Generation PEP.

Research theme

Sustainable behavorial changes for brain health.

Publications

The project on how physical activity patterns co-vary with early signs of cardiovascular disease and cognitive impairment is based on data from the SCAPIS database. High-resolution images of blood vessels and organs and detailed information on lifestyle habits, risk factors, and cognitive abilities are available from as many as 30,000 individuals.

The study aims to map how the connection looks in specific groups, Swedes between 50 and 64 years of age, with varying degrees of visible plaque in the heart's coronary arteries.

Responsible researcher

Örjan Ekblom

Project period

2023–2025

Collaborative partners

Participating researchers at GIH are Rui Wang, Maria Ekblom och Amanda Lönn

Participating from Skandia.

Research theme

Physical acticity and its relationship to brain health throughout life.

In this project, we will evaluate the effects of interventions to support sustainable physical activity in the workplace to increase productivity, mental health, and cognitive function and reduce sickness absence. In collaboration with the organization, we will use evidence-based principles to design, implement and evaluate physical activity interventions, primarily at the workplace and during leisure time. The interventions will be based on health behavior change theories with solid research support.

Responsible researcher

Magnus Lindwall

Project period

2023–2025

Collaborative partners

Participating researchers at GIH are Lena Kallings and Ulrika Traneus

Participating partners are SAAB and Itrim.

Research theme

Sustainable behavorial changes for brain health.

The project's three sub-projects aim to map the relationship between physical activity and healthy brain functions, some of the physiological mechanisms that can contribute to these relationships, and central organizational components that can support the sustainable implementation of brain health-promoting physical activity in school.

The participants are aged 13–15, an understudied age where the incidence of mental illness increases and where much life changes for young people.

Responsible researcher

Örjan Ekblom

Project period

2018–2023

Collaborative partners

Participating researchers at GIH are Gisela Nyberg, Karin Kjellenberg, Björg Helgadóttir, Carolina Lunde, Sara Hoy, Maria Fernström and Britta Thedin Jakobsson.

Participating partners are COOP, Skandia, Skanska, IKEA, Generation PEP and Konsumentföreningen i Stockholm med omnejd.

Research theme

Synergy between our three themes Neurophysiological pathways from movement habits to brain health, Physical activity and its relationship to brain health throughout life and Sustainable behavioral changes for brain health.

Researchers

Research leader

  • Maria Ekblom, professor, assistant head, Department of Physical Activity and Health

Deputy research leader

  • Victoria Blom, head of department, Department of Physical Activity and Health

Researchers at GIH

External and affiliated researchers

  • Susanne Andermo, affiliated researcher, dr in medical science
  • Frida Björkman, project researcher, PhD sports science
  • Carla Nooijen, affiliated researcher, PhD in rehabilitation medicine
  • Eva Selinus, PhD, senior physician in child psychiatry, affiliated researcher

Financing

  • Kunskaps- och kompetensstiftelsen
  • Vetenskapsrådet
  • Skandia Idéer för livet
  • Åke Wibergs stiftelse
  • Gymnastik och Idrottshögskolan
  • Collaborating companies and organizations (See below)

Collaborative partners

Publications

Here is a list of the publications from the research group Physical activity and brain health, E-PABS, at GIH, tagged in our publication database DiVA. The latest publications are first in the list. 

On this page

Contact

  • Maria Ekblom´s profilbildProfessor, biträdande prefekt, studierektorMaria Ekblommaria.ekblom@gih.se08-120 53 736
Last modified:28 Nov 2022