Karin Schon, PhD Hear my name
Associate Professor
Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine
Anatomy & Neurobiology

PhD, Boston University
MA, Universität Hamburg
BA, Universität Hamburg

Pronouns: she/her/hers



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 Chobanian and Avedisian 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

DEIA and social justice are core values for me as a cognitive neuroscientist and member of the Boston University community. Everything I do I view through a DEIA 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 impact or racialized stress (due to racism and discrimination) on hippocampal, amygdala and prefrontal systems and associated cognitive processes, including, but not limited to episodic memory, working memory, and executive functioning, as well as emotion processing, and physiological markers of allostatic load and cardiovascular health. This research is funded by the National Institute on Aging (R21AG060269 - past, R01AG074213 - current), the National Institute on Mental Health (R01MH128280 - current), and was funded by an Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant (AARG-17-529566).

Teaching:
In my Cognitive Neuroscience class, I make every effort to include papers from authors who are members of underrepresented groups in STEM, and I incorporate discussion of the brain basis 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 inclusive teaching and learning, and I aim to incorporate principles of Universal Design into teaching and syllabus design.

Mentoring:
I have extensive experience mentoring students and mentees from undergraduate to Post Doc level who are members of underrepresented groups in STEM, and I have an active collaboration with a Historically Black College or University (HBCU), the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI; United States Virgin Islands) through which I mentor undergraduate students in research. In January 2023 I gave an invited research talk and met with students at the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas and St. Croix campuses. A UVI undergraduate student is working in my laboratory during the summer of 2024 through BUMC's STaRS pipeline program. I currently serve as a research mentor in UVI’s URISE undergraduate biomedical research training summer program and BU’s STaRS and BU PREP programs. Many of my mentees 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 (until 5/2023), member (6/2023-)
• Graduate Program for Neuroscience (GPN) DEIJ Committee; Role: Chair (until 9/2022)
• 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: Chair (until 5/2024)
• BU Community Safety Advisory Group; Role: Faculty Council Representative (until 5/2024)
In June 2020 I served as a panelist for BU’s “A Day of Collective Engagement: Racism and Antiracism, Our Realities and Our Roles”.
In May 2023 I served as a co-organizer and panelist on a Provost’s Workshop on Accessibility.
I regularly participate in career panels for students (high school and above) from groups underrepresented in STEM.

Leadership and initiatives:
At the BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine until May 2023 I served as the Chair of the Anatomy & Neurobiology DEIJ Committee and I am the past Chair of the GPN DEIJ Committee. I serve as an Assistant Dean for Diversity & Inclusion at the BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, and I am the co-Director of BU PREP, a pipeline program for recent bachelor’s degree recipients from NIH-recognized underrepresented groups seeking entry into competitive PhD training programs. University-wide, I was the Chair of the Faculty Council’s Equity and Inclusion Committee until 5/2024. My efforts as Chair of the Equity & Inclusion Committee contributed to the removal of the name Myles Standish from the residence hall located at 610 Beacon Street, which was announced on 5/23/2024 in BU Today. Through these leadership and related roles I have planned and hosted several DEIA events. The events included:
• Anatomy & Neurobiology DEIJ Workshop held in September 2021 in collaboration with Kristen Handricken formerly of BU’s Diversity & Inclusion office
• I organized and hosted a virtual BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine 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 in 2021-2022 (not funded)
• I sought and received funding through a BU D&I Inclusion Catalyst Grant for the virtual panel on diversity statements
• I served on the Planning Committee and as panelist for a Provost’s Panel on Accessibility at the BU Chobanian and Avedisian School of Medicine (5/2023)
• I run the BUMC Reads program at the BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine.
o 2023-2024: Disability Visibility by Alice Wong
• I co-sponsored a Mid-Career Faculty Leadership Program Project on Accessibility (co-sponsor: Dr. Angelique Harris), BU Chobanian and Avedisian School of Medicine. Title: “How can the BU Medical Campus proactively increase awareness of disability justice, inclusion, universal design, and accessibility for faculty and staff?”
• I spear-headed and co-wrote an Anatomy & Neurobiology Emerging Scholars Program on “Brain Diversity in Health and Disease” (submitted 1/2024; funded)
Public Impact. I was an inaugural faculty affiliate at the Center for Antiracist Research (11/2020 – 10/2023) and a 2022 Public Impact Scholar, sponsored by BU's Initiative of Cities. A 2020 co-authored publication with the Black Women's Health Study (Coogan, Schon et al., 2020) on impact of perceived racism on subjective cognition in older women received significant media attention.

Assistant Professor
Boston University College of Arts and Sciences
Neuroscience


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


Member
Boston University
Evans Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research


Graduate Faculty (Primary Mentor of Grad Students)
Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian 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
5F99NS124143-02

Psychosocial stress, cardio-respiratory fitness, and the medial temporal hippocampal system in Black emerging adults
08/05/2022 - 05/31/2027 (PI)
NIH/National Institute of Mental Health
5R01MH128280-02

Perceived racism, cardiovascular disease risk, and neurocognitive aging
08/01/2022 - 04/30/2027 (PI)
NIH/National Institute on Aging
3R01AG074213-02S1

Psychosocial stressors and the hippocampal memory system in African American seniors
04/01/2019 - 03/31/2024 (PI)
NIH/National Institute on Aging
5R21AG060269-02

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
5R21AG049968-02

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.


AEROBIC EXERCISE, NEUROTROPHINS, AND fMRI OF HIPPOCAMPAL FUNCTION AND STRUCTURE
04/01/2013 - 03/31/2018 (PI)
NIH/National Institute on Aging
5R00AG036845-05

AEROBIC EXERCISE, NEUROTROPHINS, AND fMRI OF HIPPOCAMPAL FUNCTION AND STRUCTURE
09/30/2010 - 12/31/2012 (PI)
NIH/National Institute on Aging
5K99AG036845-02



Title


Yr Title Project-Sub Proj Pubs
2024 Perceived racism, cardiovascular disease risk, and neurocognitive aging 3R01AG074213-03S1
2024 Perceived racism, cardiovascular disease risk, and neurocognitive aging: Diversity Supplement 3R01AG074213-02S1
2024 Perceived racism, cardiovascular disease risk, and neurocognitive aging 5R01AG074213-03
2024 BU PREP 5R25GM125511-05
2023 Psychosocial stress, cardio-respiratory fitness, and the medial temporal hippocampal system in Black emerging adults 5R01MH128280-02
2023 Perceived racism, cardiovascular disease risk, and neurocognitive aging 5R01AG074213-02
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
Showing 10 of 17 results. Show All Results

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.

iCite Analysis       Copy PMIDs To Clipboard

  1. Rosario MA, Alotaibi R, Espinal-Martinez AO, Ayoub A, Baumann A, Clark U, Cozier Y, Schon K. Personal Mastery Attenuates the Association between Greater Perceived Discrimination and Lower Amygdala and Anterior Hippocampal Volume in a Diverse Sample of Older Adults. bioRxiv. 2024 Jan 16.View Related Profiles. PMID: 38293042; PMCID: PMC10827091; DOI: 10.1101/2024.01.12.575447;
     
  2. Rosario MA, Kern KL, Mumtaz S, Storer TW, Schon K. Cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with cortical thickness of medial temporal brain areas associated with spatial cognition in young but not older adults. Eur J Neurosci. 2024 Jan; 59(1):82-100. PMID: 38056827; PMCID: PMC10979765; DOI: 10.1111/ejn.16200;
     
  3. Kern KL, McMains SA, Storer TW, Moffat SD, Schon K. Cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with fMRI signal in right cerebellum lobule VIIa Crus I and II during spatial navigation in older adult women. Front Aging Neurosci. 2022; 14:979741. PMID: 36506472; PMCID: PMC9727394; DOI: 10.3389/fnagi.2022.979741;
     
  4. 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;
     
  5. 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;
     
  6. 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;
     
  7. 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;
     
  8. 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;
     
  9. 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;
     
  10. 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;
     
Showing 10 of 22 results. Show More

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

Bar chart showing 22 publications over 13 distinct years, with a maximum of 4 publications in 2020

YearPublications
20041
20052
20071
20081
20091
20121
20133
20153
20192
20204
20221
20231
20241

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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