Karin Schon, PhD

Karin Schon, Ph.D., received a joint B.A./M.A. degree in Psychology from the University of Hamburg in Germany in 1998, and her Ph.D. from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Boston University in 2005. Her dissertation focused on functional neuroimaging studies of working memory and long-term (episodic) memory formation under the mentorship of Prof. Chantal Stern. She then continued her work with Prof. Stern as a Postdoc. In 2010 she received a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence award from the National Institute on Aging to investigate the effects or cardio-respiratory fitness and exercise on the function and structure of the medial temporal hippocampal memory system. In May 2013 she joined the Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology at the Boston University School of Medicine as an Assistant Professor where she is the Director of the Brain Plasticity and Neuroimaging Laboratory.

Dr. Schon’s brain plasticity research focuses on modulators of the medial temporal hippocampal system across the lifespan. Currently, she investigates the role of aerobic fitness/exercise, aging, and chronic psychosocial stress, as modulators of cognitive function and brain health in aging and Alzheimer’s disease and in emerging adults. With her cognitive neuroscience research on chronic psychosocial stress she aims to take an anti-racist perspective by focusing on the impact of interpersonal, institutional/structural and cultural racism on brain health in older Black/African Americans and Black/African American emerging adults. The long-term goal of this research is to understand social and environmental determinants of brain and mental health across the lifespan and to contribute to health policy change from a cognitive neuroscience perspective with the goal to eliminate brain health inequities.

Methods used include: Task-based, resting-state and high-resolution fMRI, structural MRI, cognitive testing, neuropsychology, exercise testing and training, and biomarker assays (e.g. neurotrophins, such as BDNF, IGF-1, and VEGF; salivary cortisol, allostatic load).

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility

DEIJ/A is a core value for me as a cognitive neuroscientist and member of the Boston University community. Everything I do I view through a DEIJ and anti-racist lens. The following summarizes how I have incorporated DEIJ/DEIA (J = justice) into all aspects of my professional academic life at Boston University, including research, teaching/mentoring and service.

Research: An important line of my research program centers on impact of interpersonal, structural/institutional and cultural racism on neurocognitive health in older Black adults and in emerging Black adult university students. This research focuses on hippocampal, amygdala and prefrontal systems and associated cognitive processes, including, but not limited to episodic memory, working memory, and executive functioning, and physiological markers of allostatic load and cardiovascular health. This research is funded by the National Institute on Aging (R21, R01), the National Institute on Mental Health (R01), and an Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant (AARG).

Teaching. In my Cognitive Neuroscience class, I select papers from authors who are members of underrepresented groups in STEM, and I incorporate discussion of implicit bias and racialized stress as core topics. I have also run departmental journal clubs focused on the intersection of human neuroscience and social justice. In summer 2022, I participated in the Inclusive STEM Teaching Project (ISTP) through BU’s School of Public Health that focused on Universal Design for teaching.

Mentoring. I have extensive experience mentoring students from undergraduate to PhD level who are members of underrepresented groups in STEM, and I have an active collaboration with an HBCU (University of the Virgin Islands, USVI) through which I mentor undergraduate students. Many of these students have continued in the biomedical sciences and/or received research funding/competitive summer research opportunities.

Service: I actively participate in the following committees:
• Anatomy & Neurobiology DEIJ Committee; Role: Chair
• Graduate Program for Neuroscience DEIJ Committee; Role: Chair
• Graduate Medical Sciences (GMS) Diversity Steering Committee; Role: Member
• BUMC Glossary for Culture Transformation group; Role: GMS Representative
• BU Faculty Council Equity and Inclusion Committee; Role: incoming Chair (9/2022 - )
• BU Community Safety Advisory Group; Role: Faculty Council Representative

Leadership and initiatives: I take leadership roles in DEIJ. I currently Chair the Anatomy & Neurobiology and GPN DEIJ Committees. I am the incoming Chair of the Faculty Council’s Equity and Inclusion Committee. Through these and related roles I planned and hosted several DEIJ events. Recent events included:
• Anatomy & Neurobiology DEIJ Workshop held in September 2021 in collaboration with Kristen Handricken formerly of BU Diversity & Inclusion
• I organized and hosted a virtual BUSM GMS panel on diversity statements from faculty candidates with panelists from Boston University, Columbia University, Cornell University and Emory University and created a website with resources (4/2022): https://www.bumc.bu.edu/gms/2022/04/23/why-diversity-statements-are-needed-from-faculty-candidates/.
• I co-organized several student-led GPN DEIJ neuroscience symposia (2020 - )
• I spear-headed and co-wrote a GPN Emerging Scholars Program Neuroscience Symposium application (submitted 1/2022, not funded; to be resubmitted 1/2023)
• I sought and received funding through a BU D&I Inclusion Catalyst Grant for the virtual panel on diversity statements from faculty candidates

Public Impact: I am a faculty affiliate at the Center for Antiracist Research (11/2020 - ) and a 2022 Public Impact Scholar, sponsored by BU's Initiative of Cities. A recent co-authored publication with the Black Women's Health Study (Coogan et al., 2020) on impact of perceived racism on subjective cognition received significant media attention.

Assistant Professor
Boston University College of Arts and Sciences

Assistant Professor
Boston University College of Arts and Sciences
Psychological and Brain Sciences

Boston University
Evans Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research

Graduate Faculty (Primary Mentor of Grad Students)
Boston University School of Medicine, Graduate Medical Sciences

A multimodal investigation of positive and negative modulators of the medial temporal hippocampal system
09/01/2021 - 08/31/2027 (Key Person / Mentor)
NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke

Psychosocial stressors and the hippocampal memory system in African American seniors
04/01/2019 - 03/31/2023 (PI)
NIH/National Institute on Aging

Perceived racism as a chronic stressor and cognition in Black Seniors
03/01/2018 - 02/28/2023 (PI)
Alzheimer's Association

The entorhinal cortex and aerobic exericise in aging
08/15/2016 - 05/31/2021 (PI)
NIH/National Institute on Aging

Effectiveness of Bio-Electric Stimulation for the Treatment of Motor and Non-Motor Symptoms in Parkinson's Disease - A pilot study
01/20/2017 - 03/31/2020 (PI)
Immumax International Co Ltd.

04/01/2013 - 03/31/2018 (PI)
NIH/National Institute on Aging

09/30/2010 - 12/31/2012 (PI)
NIH/National Institute on Aging


Yr Title Project-Sub Proj Pubs
2022 Psychosocial stress, cardio-respiratory fitness, and the medial temporal hippocampal system in Black emerging adults 1R01MH128280-01A1
2022 Perceived racism, cardiovascular disease risk, and neurocognitive aging 1R01AG074213-01A1
2020 Psychosocial stressors and the hippocampal memory system in African American seniors 5R21AG060269-02
2019 Psychosocial stressors and the hippocampal memory system in African American seniors 1R21AG060269-01A1
2017 The entorhinal cortex and aerobic exercise in aging 5R21AG049968-02
2016 The entorhinal cortex and aerobic exercise in aging 1R21AG049968-01A1
2015 Aerobic Exercise, Neurotrophins, and fMRI of Hippocampal Function and Structure 5R00AG036845-05 4
2014 Aerobic Exercise, Neurotrophins, and fMRI of Hippocampal Function and Structure 5R00AG036845-04 4
2013 Aerobic Exercise, Neurotrophins, and fMRI of Hippocampal Function and Structure 4R00AG036845-03 4
2011 Aerobic Exercise, Neurotrophins, and fMRI of Hippocampal Function and Structure 5K99AG036845-02 4
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Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Faculty can login to make corrections and additions.

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  1. Kern KL, Storer TW, Schon K. Cardiorespiratory fitness, hippocampal subfield volumes, and mnemonic discrimination task performance in aging. Hum Brain Mapp. 2021 03; 42(4):871-892. PMID: 33325614; PMCID: PMC7856657; DOI: 10.1002/hbm.25259;
  2. Islam MR, Luo R, Valaris S, Haley EB, Takase H, Chen YI, Dickerson BC, Schon K, Arai K, Nguyen CT, Wrann CD. Diffusion tensor-MRI detects exercise-induced neuroplasticity in the hippocampal microstructure in mice. Brain Plast. 2020 Oct 01; 5(2):147-159. PMID: 33282678; PMCID: PMC7685674; DOI: 10.3233/BPL-190090;
  3. Coogan P, Schon K, Li S, Cozier Y, Bethea T, Rosenberg L. Experiences of racism and subjective cognitive function in African American women. Alzheimers Dement (Amst). 2020; 12(1):e12067.View Related Profiles. PMID: 32782921; PMCID: PMC7409101; DOI: 10.1002/dad2.12067;
  4. Nauer RK, Schon K, Stern CE. Cardiorespiratory fitness and mnemonic discrimination across the adult lifespan. Learn Mem. 2020 03; 27(3):91-103. PMID: 32071255; PMCID: PMC7029721; DOI: 10.1101/lm.049197.118;
  5. Kronman CA, Kern KL, Nauer RK, Dunne MF, Storer TW, Schon K. Cardiorespiratory fitness predicts effective connectivity between the hippocampus and default mode network nodes in young adults. Hippocampus. 2020 05; 30(5):526-541. PMID: 31647603; PMCID: PMC7442492; DOI: 10.1002/hipo.23169;
  6. Nauer RK, Dunne MF, Stern CE, Storer TW, Schon K. Improving fitness increases dentate gyrus/CA3 volume in the hippocampal head and enhances memory in young adults. Hippocampus. 2020 05; 30(5):488-504. PMID: 31588607; PMCID: PMC7485880; DOI: 10.1002/hipo.23166;
  7. Whiteman AS, Young DE, Budson AE, Stern CE, Schon K. Entorhinal volume, aerobic fitness, and recognition memory in healthy young adults: A voxel-based morphometry study. Neuroimage. 2016 Feb 01; 126:229-38.View Related Profiles. PMID: 26631814; PMCID: PMC4733633; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.11.049;
  8. Nauer RK, Whiteman AS, Dunne MF, Stern CE, Schon K. Hippocampal subfield and medial temporal cortical persistent activity during working memory reflects ongoing encoding. Front Syst Neurosci. 2015; 9:30. PMID: 25859188; PMCID: PMC4372545; DOI: 10.3389/fnsys.2015.00030;
  9. Schon K, Newmark RE, Ross RS, Stern CE. A Working Memory Buffer in Parahippocampal Regions: Evidence from a Load Effect during the Delay Period. Cereb Cortex. 2016 May; 26(5):1965-74. PMID: 25662713; PMCID: PMC4830282; DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhv013;
  10. Ross RS, LoPresti ML, Schon K, Stern CE. Role of the hippocampus and orbitofrontal cortex during the disambiguation of social cues in working memory. Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2013 Dec; 13(4):900-15. PMID: 23640112; PMCID: PMC3796192; DOI: 10.3758/s13415-013-0170-x;
Showing 10 of 19 results. Show More

This graph shows the total number of publications by year, by first, middle/unknown, or last author.

Bar chart showing 19 publications over 10 distinct years, with a maximum of 4 publications in 2020


2022 Initiative of Cities, Boston University: Public Impact Scholar
2021 Boston University School of Medicine: Russek Day 2021 Faculty Award (for research and service related to DEIA)
2019-2020 Advanced Research Institute (ARI) in Mental Health and Aging: Scholar, 2019 cohort
2015 Boston University: UROP Outstanding Mentor Award, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program
2015 Boston University School of Medicine: Junior Faculty Spivack Scholar 2015
2013 CCAD Junior Investigator, Charleston Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease
2010 NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00)
2005 Boston University: Felicia Sorembe Lambros Prize for Research
2005 Boston University: Kavita Jain Dissertation Award

My lab is always looking for mentees at the undergraduate and graduate student level who would like to gain research experience in human neuroimaging. I am also happy to serve on Senior thesis and dissertation committees that are generally related to my area of expertise. In addition, I would be happy to serve on Career Panels on STEM research, especially those geared toward women in STEM.

Available to Mentor as: (Review Mentor Role Definitions):
  • Advisor
  • Career Mentor
  • Co-Mentor or Peer Mentor
  • Diversity Mentor
  • Project Mentor
  • Research / Scholarly Mentor
Contact for Mentoring:
  • Email (see 'Contact Info')

72 E. Concord St Housman (R)
Boston MA 02118
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