Lab Members

Dr. Erickson received his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Philosophy at Marquette University in 1999. He received his PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2005 and did post-doctoral work at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois until 2008.

Dr. Erickson’s research interests range from cognitive neuroscience, aging, neuroplasticity, genetics, and molecular mechanisms of cognitive function.  He is currently the Principal Investigator of the BACH lab at the University of Pittsburgh and is continuing his research on how the brain changes in late adulthood and the factors that promote successful aging. 

In his free time, he enjoys traveling, spending time with family, salsa dancing, playing squash, and reading.

Postdoctoral Researchers

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Chelsea Stillman obtained her PhD. in Psychology (Lifespan Cognitive Neuroscience) from Georgetown University in 2015. Her predoctoral research focused on identifying dispositional and neural characteristics associated with implicit learning and other basic cognitive functions. She joined the BACH Lab in the Fall of 2015 to begin examining the plasticity of the brain in a more translational context. Chelsea’s research focuses on how lifestyle interventions, such as physical activity, meditation, and diet, modify cognitive functioning and neurobiological mechanisms that underlie these cognitive changes. When not immersed in science, Chelsea enjoys spending time with friends and family, finding new ways caffeinate herself, and indulging in guilty pleasures on Netflix and Showtime (but not shamelessly enough to disclose…). She also enjoys barre, hilly runs, and exploring the Pittsburgh fitness scene. 

Graduate Students

Lauren Oberlin is a Ph.D. student at the University of Pittsburgh in the Clinical/Health Psychology Program.  She graduated from the University of Connecticut where she studied Psychology with a Concentration in Neuroscience, and Political Science.   Lauren’s research interests include the impact of cardiovascular health on pathological aging, as well as neuroplasticity in relation to neurological insult and cognitive decline.  Additionally, Lauren enjoys spending time with her family and friends, visiting museums, reading, and traveling.  


Swathi Gujral is a Ph.D. student at the University of Pittsburgh in the Clinical/Health Psychology Program. She graduated from Indiana University in 2009 with a B.S. in Psychology with a concentration in Neuroscience and a B.A. in Religious Studies. Swathi’s research interests include the effects of exercise on mood and cognitive function in aging populations; she would specifically like to test whether exercise induced changes in cognitive function may be mediated by mood and motivational state. In her free time, Swathi enjoys bhangra dancing, cooking, reading, and spending time with family and friends.

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Jamie Cohen is a graduate student in the Clinical/Health Psychology Program at the University of Pittsburgh and a member of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, a joint program with Carnegie Mellon University. She graduated from the University of Michigan where she studied Brain Behavior & Cognitive Sciences and Spanish. Jamie joined the BACH Lab in 2015 to study cognitive decline in healthy and pathological aging and the impact of vascular health on brain structure and function. In her free time, Jamie enjoys cooking, hiking (and doing anything outside), and watching sports (she can’t give up her dedication to the Michigan Wolverines or Chicago Cubs).



Jennifer Watt is the Neuroimaging Director and a Research Project Coordinator at the Brain Aging and Cognitive Health Lab. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2009 with a Bachelor’s Degree and went on to complete a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology with a concentration in Prevention and Healthy Aging. She is currently working on a Master’s Degree in Health, Physical Activitiy and Chronic Disease. Her research interests include the mesolimbic dopamine reward circuit and its connection to obesity.

Mariegold Wollam is the Neuropsychology Director and a Research Project Coordinator at the Brain Aging and Cognitive Health Lab. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with honors and a concentration in Communication. Her current research interests include exploring the many genetic and lifestyle factors involved in healthy aging, with particular emphasis on regular physical activity, intellectual stimulation, nutrition, and social engagement. She is also interested in exploring how environmental and behavioral factors alter genetic expression and cognition throughout the course of one's life: we live to learn! 

George Grove is an exercise physiologist. He obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Biological Sciences and graduate degree in Exercise Science from Old Dominion University in Norfolk Virginia. He has 10 years of experience in conducting various models of fitness testing along with leading exercise interventions as part of research projects. He is also the fitness director of a local fitness center in his home in Somerset, where he also still does some personal training. His training experience includes working with the healthy population along with a wide array of chronic diseases. He is an avid fan of Pitt football and basketball. In his free team he enjoys competing in running events, completing home improvement projects, and spending time with his family.

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Patrick Donahue is an exercise physiologist at the BACH Lab. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2016 with a B.S. in Exercise Science. He is currently completing coursework for a M.S. in Health, Physical Activity and Chronic Disease, also, at Pitt. He enjoys working within the research field of health and fitness and may pursue a doctoral degree in the future.  He has experience training clients one-on-one as well as working with participants in several different exercise intervention studies. In his free time, Pat likes watching his hometown Philadelphia sports teams, working out at the gym, and spending time with friends and family.


Mary Crisafio is an Exercise Physiologist in the BACH Lab with a BA in Exercise Science from Baldwin Wallace University and an MS in Wellness and Human Performance from the University of Pittsburgh. She has experience in clinical, corporate and research fields of exercise testing, interventions, and exercise program implementation. She is a certified personal trainer through ACSM with experience training individuals who are athletes, the geriatric population, persons with chronic diseases, injury rehabilitation patients and individuals with cognitive and physical disabilities. When she is not in the lab or the gym she enjoys traveling, checking out the local music scene, golfing and spending time with family and friends. 

Haiqing Huang joined the lab in November 2016 as Data Manager. He received his PHD in Biomedical Engineering from University of Florida. His research mainly focuses on functional and structural connectivity in human brain. He is interested in a variety of neuroimaging techniques, including functional MRI, structural MRI and diffusion imaging. In his free time, Haiqing enjoys playing basketball and spending time with family.

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Dr. Charles Lwanga is a doctoral candidate of ethnomusicology at the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned his first doctorate in Music Composition/Theory in 2012. His research in ethnomusicology examines how popular music and the multiple spaces of its production, circulation, and consumption mediates marginalized publics in Uganda’s emerging democracy. As composer, Dr. Lwanga’s electroacoustic/acoustic compositions have been performed by world music ensembles in the USA, UK, and Africa. As a research assistant with the BACH Lab, Lwanga instructs dance for the REACT Study, drumming as well as educational classes.

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Mihloti Williams is a Research Assistant working on the REACT project. She has a bachelors degree in Human Movement Science and a bachelor honours degree in Biokinetics from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa. She is a qualified biokineticist (exercise physiologist) in South Africa and has worked both in private practice and for a rugby team. In addition to her work at the BACH Lab, she is a Research Associate at ImPACT Applications, Inc where she does neurocognitive assessments and research on concussion management. Outside the lab, she is an avid fan of the Manchester City Football Club.

Visiting Scholars

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Maria Mataro is an Associate Professor in the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychobiology at the University of Barcelona. Her research expertise and interests are on vascular cognitive impairment, healthy cognitive and brain aging and neuroplasticity. The current MoveMent project aims to study the molecular and neural mechanisms of non-pharmacological strategies -physical exercise and cognitive training- to stimulate brain plasticity and improve brain health and cognitive functioning.

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Feng-Tzu Chen received funding from the Ministry of Education in Taiwan to study with our lab. He is a Ph.D student at National Taiwan Sport University in PAPCN Lab, hosted by professor Yu-Kai Chang. Feng-Tzu’s research interests include the impact of exercise intervention (e.g. exercise mode) on executive control and neuroimaging performance in middle and older population. Before his visiting, he also completed two-year program, which examined the effects of acute exercise on executive control in children with preterm birth. In his free time, he would enjoys jogging, cooking, and watching sports, especially baseball, basketball, mix martial arts.

Undergraduate Researchers

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Erin Cullen - Neuroscience & English Writing Major - Graduating Spring 2017

Brandon Golden - Neuroscience Major - Graduating Spring 2017

Leighanne Ohlinger - Psychology Major - Graduating Spring 2018

Aashna Waiwood - Psychology Major - Graduating Spring 2018

Melanie Cieciuch - Psychology Major - Graduating Spring 2018

Morgan Lehman - Neuroscience Major - Graduating Spring 2018

Mariah CallasRehabilitation Science Major - Graduating Spring 2018

Ryan Gallagher - Undeclared - Graduating Spring 2019


Andrea Weinstein, PhD, graduated from the joint Clinical and Biological Health Psychology program at the University of Pittsburgh, also earning a certificate from the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition. She completed her predoctoral clinical internship at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Andrea's research interests include cognitive aging and cognitive dysfunction in individuals diagnosed with neurological diseases such as Parkinson's disease. She is now an Assistant Professor in the Behavioral and Community Health Sciences department at Pitt's Graduate School of Public Health, where she studies health behaviors in older adults using cognitive neuroscience techniques. In particular, she is interested in behavioral interventions for cognitive decline and how to identify ways to help people initiate and maintain healthy behaviors.

Regina Leckie, PhD graduated from the Cognitive Psychology doctoral program at the University of Pittsburgh and with a concentration on Cognitive Neuroscience from the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC) in 2016. Gina is interested in studying how various lifestyle factors (e.g. cardiovascular health, diet, and obesity) can influence brain volume, neural function, and cognitive performance. Gina is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at Carnegie Mellon University under the mentorship of Dr. Timothy Verstynen and will begin as a Postdoctoral Fellow on University of Pittsburgh's Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine Research Training (T32) grant, under the mentorship of Drs Richard Jennings and Peter Gianaros, in January 2017.

Destiny Miller, PhD often used behavioral measures of cognition in addition to fMRI and MR images to explore brain health and function. Other research examines the interplay between social interactions, cognitive engagement, and physical activity on the aging process. Destiny seeks to develop a research program that highlights the power of increased exercise and other modifiable behavioral factors aimed at retaining and improving cognitive functioning. She also enjoys teaching. Destiny is currently a research coordinator at Psychology Software Tools.

Timothy Verstynen, PhD - Timothy’s general research program centers on mapping the neural systems involved in planning, executing and (sometimes) inhibiting actions.  To do this he adopts a network-level analysis of brain circuits. Information in the brain consists of electrochemical signals that are transmitted across the brain by billions of fibers called axons. The long-range fiber bundles, the equivalent of the super-highways of the brain, make up what is referred to as "white matter."  Using non-invasive brain imaging and computational modeling, the goal of his work is to show how the integrity of these connections can predict neural and cognitive functioning (i.e., white matter matters!) and how they break down with decreased physical health (e.g., obesity, diabetes, etc). Timothy is now a Professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

© The Brain Aging and Cognitive Health Lab 2017