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

Impaired cerebral blood flow regulation in chronic traumatic brain injury.
Ding K, Tarumi T, Tomoto T, Mccolloster M, Le T, Dieppa M, Diaz-Arrastia R, Bell K, Madden C, Cullum CM, Zhang R, Brain Res. 2020 Sep 1743 146924
Central autonomic network functional connectivity: correlation with baroreflex function and cardiovascular variability in older adults.
Ding K, Tarumi T, Wang C, Vernino S, Zhang R, Zhu DC, Brain Struct Funct 2020 Apr
Dysregulation of CO2-Driven Heart-Rate Chemoreflex Is Related Closely to Impaired CO2 Dynamic Vasomotor Reactivity in Mild Cognitive Impairment Patients.
Marmarelis VZ, Shin DC, Zhang R, J. Alzheimers Dis. 2020 Apr
Brain Perfusion Change in Patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment After 12 Months of Aerobic Exercise Training.
Thomas BP, Tarumi T, Sheng M, Tseng B, Womack KB, Munro Cullum C, Rypma B, Zhang R, Lu H, J. Alzheimers Dis. 2020 Apr
Carotid Stiffness is Associated with Brain Amyloid-ß Burden in Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment.
Pasha EP, Rutjes E, Tomoto T, Tarumi T, Stowe A, Claassen JAHR, Munro Cullum C, Zhu DC, Zhang R, J. Alzheimers Dis. 2020 Feb
Assessment of dynamic cerebral autoregulation in humans: Is reproducibility dependent on blood pressure variability?
Elting JW, Sanders ML, Panerai RB, Aries M, Bor-Seng-Shu E, Caicedo A, Chacon M, Gommer ED, Van Huffel S, Jara JL, Kostoglou K, Mahdi A, Marmarelis VZ, Mitsis GD, Müller M, Nikolic D, Nogueira RC, Payne SJ, Puppo C, Shin DC, Simpson DM, Tarumi T, Yelicich B, Zhang R, Claassen JAHR, PLoS ONE 2020 15 1 e0227651
Cerebral White Matter Integrity in Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment: A 1-Year Randomized Controlled Trial of Aerobic Exercise Training.
Tarumi T, Thomas BP, Tseng BY, Wang C, Womack KB, Hynan L, Lu H, Cullum CM, Zhang R, J. Alzheimers Dis. 2019 Nov
Exercise Training in Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment: A One-Year Randomized Controlled Trial.
Tarumi T, Rossetti H, Thomas BP, Harris T, Tseng BY, Turner M, Wang C, German Z, Martin-Cook K, Stowe AM, Womack KB, Mathews D, Kerwin DR, Hynan L, Diaz-Arrastia R, Lu H, Munro Cullum C, Zhang R, J. Alzheimers Dis. 2019 Aug
Comparing model-based cerebrovascular physiomarkers with DTI biomarkers in MCI patients.
Marmarelis VZ, Shin DC, Tarumi T, Zhang R, Brain Behav 2019 Jul e01356
Ambulatory pulse pressure, brain neuronal fiber integrity, and cerebral blood flow in older adults.
Tarumi T, Thomas BP, Wang C, Zhang L, Liu J, Turner M, Riley J, Tangella N, Womack KB, Kerwin DR, Cullum CM, Lu H, Vongpatanasin W, Zhu DC, Zhang R, J. Cereb. Blood Flow Metab. 2019 May 39 5 926-936

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

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