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Dr Rachel Chan, SFHEA

Senior Lecturer - Physiotherapy

About Research



Rachel completed her BSc in Physiotherapy at Trinity College, Dublin, and then went on to do an MSc in Exercise Physiology and a PhD titled 'The Effect of Exercise on the Ageing Brain.'

After graduating from her BSc, Rachel worked at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, an acute paediatric teaching hospital, for over 10 years. She specialised in respiratory care and was responsible for managing and organising the Cystic Fibrosis Physiotherapy Service.

Rachel has been lecturing for over 15 years and has extensive teaching experience. She has taught both undergraduate and postgraduate students in clinical and science cohorts and supervised many undergraduate and postgraduate research projects.

Rachel is very committed to student experience and was awarded Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy in 2016; this is awarded to professionals who demonstrate a personal and institutional commitment to professionalism in learning and teaching in higher education.

She has also published papers in peer-reviewed journals. 


Research profile

Rachel's research interests involve exercise and the ageing brain. Over recent years exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on the brain and it has been proposed that exercise may act as a neuroprotectant to preserve cognitive function. Although this area has been well-researched, the mechanisms underlying an exercise-induced effect within the brain remain unclear.

Given that chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have been associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment, it is critical that we understand how exercise is mediating its effects within the brain and we identify what type of exercise is most effective. Exercise known to slow the onset of cognitive decline should be prescribed for all population groups at risk of cognitive impairment and the management of patients with chronic disease and cognitive impairment must be carefully considered.


  • O'Callaghan, R.M., Griffin, E.W., Kelly, Á.M. (2009) Long-term treadmill exposure protects against age-related neurodegenerative change in the rat hippocampus. Hippocampus. 19(10): 1019-1029.
  • O’Callaghan, R.M., Ohle, R. and Kelly, Á.M. (2007) The effects of forced exercise on hippocampal plasticity in the rat: A comparison of LTP, spatial- and non-spatial learning. Behav Brain Res. 176(2): 362-6.
  • Hennigan, A., O'Callaghan, R.M. and Kelly, Á.M. (2006) Neurotrophins and their receptors: roles in plasticity, neurodegeneration and neuroprotection. Biochem Soc Trans. Apr; 35(pt 2): 424-7. 

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