Rong Zhang, Ph.D., is Professor of Neurology and Internal Medicine. He serves as Director of the Cerebrovascular Laboratory at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, which is affiliated with UT Southwestern. Dr. Zhang is an internationally recognized expert in study of cerebrovascular function and impact of exercise training on brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Zhang received his undergraduate education in Physics at Sichuan University, his M.S. and Ph.D. degree in Aerospace Physiology at The Fourth Military Medical University in China. He completed his post-doctoral training in Space Medicine/Exercise Physiology with Benjamin Levine, M.D. at UT Southwestern. Dr. Zhang joined the faculty of Internal Medicine in 1997, and Neurology in 2011.

Dr. Zhang is interested in mathematical modeling of cerebral blood flow regulation. The methods he developed to assess dynamic cerebrovascular function have been used by many labs around the world. His research, supported by the American Heart Association, has demonstrated the important role of autonomic neural activity in the regulation of cerebral blood flow in human subjects.

Dr. Zhang’s research, supported by the NIH, has demonstrated that aerobic exercise training reduces central arterial stiffness and improves brain perfusion and white matter integrity measured by MRI diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in older adults. Furthermore, alterations in arterial stiffness and blood pressure circadian rhythm are associated with brain amyloid deposition measured by positron emission tomography (PET). These findings provide important insights into the impact of exercise training/physical activity on cardiovascular and brain plasticity and reveal the intrinsic interrelationship between cardiovascular and brain health. Dr. Zhang has published more than 150 peer-reviewed research articles, reviews, and technical papers. His research has been highlighted by the Time magazine, Forbes, and CNN. Dr. Zhang has served regularly as grant reviewers for the NIH, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Research Councils of Canada, UK, New Zealand, and Netherlands since 2004.      

Dr. Zhang leads a multidisciplinary team to conduct integrative physiological studies and randomized controlled trials to answer the key questions if, and to what extent, reducing cardiovascular risk factors, dietary interventions, sleep, and exercise impact brain structure, function, and perfusion with the ultimate goal to improve brain health and quality-of-life in middle-aged and older adults. Dr. Zhang also has strong research interest in understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which brain responds to lifestyle changes.


Sichuan University (1980), Physics
Graduate School
Xian Fourth Military Med Univ (1987), Physiology
Graduate School
Xian Fourth Military Med Univ (1993)

Research Interest

  • Brain aging and Alzheimer disease
  • Exercise physiology
  • Mathematical modeling and biomedical signal processing
  • Neuroimaging study of brain perfusion, structure, and function


Featured Publications LegendFeatured Publications

Wavelet-based neurovascular coupling can predict brain abnormalities in neonatal encephalopathy.
Das Y, Leon RL, Liu H, Kota S, Liu Y, Wang X, Zhang R, Chalak LF, Neuroimage Clin 2021 Oct 32 102856
Midlife Aerobic Exercise and Dynamic Cerebral Autoregulation: Associations with Baroreflex Sensitivity and Central Arterial Stiffness.
Tomoto T, Repshas J, Zhang R, Tarumi T, J Appl Physiol (1985) 2021 Oct
EEG Spectral Power: A Proposed Physiological Biomarker to Classify the Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy Severity in Real Time.
Kota S, Jasti K, Liu Y, Liu H, Zhang R, Chalak L, Pediatr Neurol 2021 Sep 122 7-14
Carotid Arterial Compliance and Aerobic Exercise Training in Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury: A Pilot Study.
Tomoto T, Le T, Tarumi T, Dieppa M, Bell K, Madden C, Zhang R, Ding K, J Head Trauma Rehabil 2021 Sep
Hippocampal and Rostral Anterior Cingulate Blood Flow is Associated with Affective Symptoms in Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury.
Thomas BP, Tarumi T, Wang C, Zhu DC, Tomoto T, Munro Cullum C, Dieppa M, Diaz-Arrastia R, Bell K, Madden C, Zhang R, Ding K, Brain Res 2021 Aug 147631
Neurovascular coupling (NVC) in newborns using processed EEG versus amplitude-EEG.
Das Y, Wang X, Kota S, Zhang R, Liu H, Chalak LF, Sci Rep 2021 May 11 1 9426
One-year Aerobic Exercise Altered Cerebral Vasomotor Reactivity in Mild Cognitive Impairment.
Tomoto T, Tarumi T, Chen JN, Hynan LS, Cullum CM, Zhang R, J Appl Physiol (1985) 2021 05
Physical activity status and quality of life in patients with epilepsy - Survey from level four epilepsy monitoring units.
Green R, Abe C, Denney DA, Zhang R, Doyle A, Gadelmola K, Cullum CM, Simon J, Neaves S, Perven G, Dieppa M, Hays R, Agostini M, Ding K, Epilepsy Res 2021 Apr 173 106639
One-Year Aerobic Exercise Reduced Carotid Arterial Stiffness and Increased Cerebral Blood Flow in Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment.
Tomoto T, Liu J, Tseng BY, Pasha EP, Cardim D, Tarumi T, Hynan LS, Munro Cullum C, Zhang R, J Alzheimers Dis 2021 Feb
Midlife aerobic exercise and brain structural integrity: Associations with age and cardiorespiratory fitness.
Tarumi T, Tomoto T, Repshas J, Wang C, Hynan LS, Cullum CM, Zhu DC, Zhang R, Neuroimage 2021 Jan 225 117512

Honors & Awards

  • Excellence in Postdoctoral Mentoring UTSW (2019)
  • Josephine Hughes Sterling Foundation (2017-2019)
  • Pilot Study Award THR Research & Education Institute (2008)
  • Pilot Study Award UTSW Alzheimer’s Disease Center (2008)

Professional Associations/Affiliations

  • American College of Sports Medicine (1996)
  • American Heart Association (1996)
  • American Physiological Society (2001)
  • International Society for Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism (2012)
  • International Society to Advance Alzheimer's Research and Treatment (2018)