Laura Middleton
519-888-4567, ext. 45045
Burt Mathews Hall (BMH) 1114
Alicia Nadon
519-888-4567 ext. 38548
Toby Jenkins Applied Health Research Building Rm # 1176
Contact for: 
General research inquiries, lab opportunities, CCNA (CompassND, Synergic)
Kayla Regan.
519-888-4567, ext. 38548
Contact for: 
Public Health Association of Canada (PHAC) Research Study (upcoming); DELIGHT
Melissa Koch
Toby Jenkins Applied Health Research Building
Contact for: 
DICE program

Research Interests: Melissa comes to the Brain and Body lab by way of McMaster University (undergraduate degrees in Social Work and Health and Aging). She then completed her MSc in the Public Health and Health Systems department at the University of Waterloo. Her undergraduate work in long-term care facilities and hospitals sparked her interest in working with older adults and their care partners. She has more recently worked with the Geriatric Health Systems research group, and focused her research on two projects: AGE-WELL (Aging Gracefully across Environments using Technology to Support Wellness, Engagement and Long Life) and a project to help inform the development of a Regional Frail Senior Strategy for Southwestern Ontario.

Current Studies: Melissa is currently spending her time assisting and coordinating dementia-related research in two research laboratories at the University of Waterloo. Her work in the Brain and Body Lab is primarily supporting the Dementia-Inclusive Choices for Exercise (DICE) project, which is developing evidence based training and resources to give exercise providers the knowledge and skills to engage with and accommodate the needs of people living dementia/MCI in physical activity. 

Bobby Neudorf

Research Interests: Bobby recently completed his Kinesiology degree from the University of Waterloo and immediately began working in the Brain and Body Lab in the fall of 2019. He has always enjoyed living an active lifestyle, and so he loves engaging in research that looks at the effects of physical activity on different aspects of the human body. Bobby also enjoys directly interacting with the participants in our studies, specifically conducting screening and neuropsychological assessments.

Current Studies: Bobby is our resident 'Jack-Of-All-Trades' and he is actively involved in many ongoing studies in the lab. He is helping wrap up an evaluation of the YMCA Move for Health program and its' referral process. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the referral process (through a local LHIN), as well as the feasibility and effectiveness of the Move for Health program. Positive results could support the expanded adoption of and referral to the Move for Health program locally and in other regions. Bobby also performs screening and clinical assessments for our ongoing CCNA research and he recently started recruiting for a research study that is a continuation of an alumni thesis project. He is looking for healthy older adult women (> 60 years of age) for a study that is exploring whether exercise in a social setting supplements the cognitive and mood effects that occur with exercise. The results of this study have the potential to provide exercise providers with additional information that is necessary to design optimal exercise programs that target aging brain health.

Lauren Bechard

Research Interests: Lauren is a doctoral candidate in the Aging, Health and Well-Being program conducting research to understand how we can better use physical activity to promote healthy cognitive aging and to help people live well with dementia. To do this, Lauren uses a variety of approaches, from epidemiological analyses of national cohort studies to person-centered, qualitative research engaging persons with lived experience of dementia. Findings from these research initiatives will help enable people in later life to take an active role in aging well.

Current studies:

  • COVID-19 health beliefs across the lifespan. Lauren is currently analyzing the data recently collected from this online survey
  • The DELIGHT Initiative: Co-designing Dementia Lifestyle Interventions for Getting Healthy Together
  • The DICE Project: Dementia-Inclusive Choices for Exercise
  • Understanding physical activity behaviours and barriers in Canada's aging population
  • Physical activity experiences, perceptions, and beliefs of persons with young-onset dementia
Tara Kuhn

Research Interests: Tara completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Victoria, where she obtained my B.Sc. in biology and psychology. She most recently completed her MSc in Kinesiology at McMaster University. Through her studies and life experience, she has become interested in understanding how different lifestyle activities, such as exercise, promote healthy aging. Her MSc research examined how sleep and physical activity interact together in older adults to promote optimal cognitive aging. Tara wants to see if the benefits of exercise in aging are partially because exercise promotes sleep. Understanding this relationship will expand our understanding of the intricacies between lifestyle and health, and ultimately help us create targeted exercise interventions to help promote better sleep and cognition for older adults. 

Current studies: Tara will start pursuing her PhD at the University of Waterloo with the Brain and Body Lab in September of 2020. She is looking forward to becoming involved in some of the ongoing research in our lab, as well as starting to plan for her own studies.

Samira Mehrabi

Research Interests: Sam worked for several years as a physical therapist before returning to academic in order to keep up with emerging knowledge in the field of geriatric exercise and well-being. She knew she could translate her clinical experience and expertise into practical research innovations. Sam is interested in exploring the impact of exercise on older adult’s physical and mental well-being. In particular, her research focuses on using technological innovations (such as virtual reality [VR] and exergames) to promote exercise engagement among older adults with cognitive impairments and mood disorders. She hopes to encourage older adults to stay physically active and engage in exercise regularly to benefit their physical and psychological health and build social connections. 

Current Studies: In addition to assiting in clinical assessments and SYNERGIC exercise interventions, Sam is involved in designing, developing, and evaluating a set of VR exergames that are tailored to the unique needs and abilities of persons living with dementia to encourage physical activity participation and improve quality of life in dementia, and explore what facilitates/limits their engagement in VR exergames. In this project, she is collaborating with experts in assistive technologies, the Games Institute, VR technologists, exercise professionals, and persons living with dementia. Sam is also working toward recruitment for a study examining barriers, facilitators, and the role of technology in promoting and maintaining home-based physical activity participation for older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. She hopes to inform adaptability of future home-based exercise programing to prepare exercise professionals and older adults for other unexpected situations such as inclement weather or a pandemic. 

Tamara DeSouza

Research Interests: Tamara is interested in understanding how to help individuals optimize their health, quality of life, and well-being. She completed her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology with a minor in Rehabilitation Sciences, and wants to use her research to make a meaningful impact on the lives of others. She is interested in understanding how to make physical activity and healthy living a priority across populations, and how to increase accessibility to exercise programs for older adult populations through knowledge translation and community education.

Current Studies: Tamara is putting together an independant project that will focus on exercise and mental health, specifically focusing on those who older adults who participated in regular exercise programs provided by CCCARE and UW Fitness prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. She is also helping run a new exercise and cogntive function study that hopes to begin recruitment as soon as possible. Tamara will use these research opportunites to help form her thesis topic, which she will propose sometime in Winter 2021.

photo of Jessica Vander Vaart

Research Interests: Jessica has been passionate about exercise for as long as she can remember, and has been able to share her passion over the last few years when teaching Muay Thai at UWaterloo. Having completed two undergrad degrees at Waterloo (Science with minor in Biology/Pscyhology; Kinesiology with minor in Rehab Sciences) and after taking courses regarding aging and physical activity, she became more interested in cognitive function and aging. This led her to the Brain and Body Lab in 2019 to volunteer for our Synergic study, and her involvement in this study has steered her potential research focus to include community exercise programs and aging.

Current Studies: Jessica is excited to start classes for her Masters education in Fall 2020, and hopes to narrow down some ideas for her own research study that would commence sometime in 2021.

Pershia Norouzian

Research Interests: Pershia recently completed her Kinesiology undergraduate degree at McMaster University, and knew she wanted to extend the theory she learned in class to real-life research and practice. Her interest in clinical populations, health psychology, and sleep stems from an undergraduate project that monitored the long-term effects of sleep and atopic disease in infants. She hopes to combine newly learned research skills with her passion for disease research by shifting her focus from infants to the elderly, and wants to create a study that monitors cognition and related outcomes such as anxiety in individuals with neurodegenerative diseases. She believes that as we better understand daily limitations or long term outcomes with these individuals, we may better treat underlying conditions and improve their quality of life. 

Current Studies: Pershia will be starting with the Brain & Body Lab in September 2020 and is co-supervised by Dr. Kaylena Ehgoetz-Martens. She hopes to work with some ongoing research in both labs and she takes classes and learns how to create her own MSc level research study.