Professor at the Department of Biology
University of British Columbia (UBC)
Okanagan Campus, Canada
Prof. Andis Klegeris is a keynote speaker of Mental Health and Neuroscience Section on 1 April, as well as of University Teaching and Learning Thematic Conference "Students as Researchers" on 3 April
Abstract for Mental Health and Neuroscience Section on 1 April
Modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer's disease and glia-driven neuroinflammation: what are the links?
Andis Klegeris, Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus, Canada
Currently, there are no effective treatment options for Alzheimer’s disease; therefore, elucidating strategies for delaying or preventing this debilitating neurodegenerative disease has become an active area of research. There are several well-established modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer's disease including obesity, type 2 diabetes, physical inactivity, and diet. All these factors are known to alter peripheral immune responses, but their interaction with the immune system of the brain are not well understood. Neuroimmune reactions are orchestrated by two main non-neuronal glial cell types: microglia, which represent the mononuclear phagocyte system in the brain, and astrocytes, which support a range of neuronal functions. We hypothesized that certain peripheral mediators, which are altered by modifiable risk factors, can cross the blood-brain barrier and have direct effects on glial cell immune functions. Our cell culture experiments have demonstrated effects of insulin, incretins and short-chain fatty acids on immune functions of microglia. We have also observed altered neuroimmune status in animals exposed to moderate exercise and chronic peripheral inflammation. Therefore, direct signaling between the periphery and glial cells could be responsible for the altered risk of Alzheimer's disease. Characterization of neuroimmune regulatory mechanisms could identify new therapeutic targets for delaying or slowing Alzheimer's disease.
Abstract for University Teaching and Learning Thematic Conference "Students as Researchers" on 3 April
Mixed-mode instruction using flipped classroom and active learning techniques leads to improved generic problem-solving skills of undergraduate students
In a recent survey of employers, 60% of respondents identified problem solving and critical thinking as an essential set of soft skills that is lacking in recent university graduates. These data are supported by academic studies arguing that contemporary university education should equip students with not only subject domain-specific knowledge, but also with generic, domain-general, problem-solving skills (PSS). Development of this skill set is challenging due to the shortage of widely available tools for measuring PSS of students, as well our limited understanding of the pedagogical strategies effectively advancing student problem solving. We hypothesized that the PSS and critical thinking of students can be improved through flipped classroom strategy where class time is mainly used for active learning instead of didactic lecturing.
Materials and methods:A final-year Biochemical Basis of Disease course was re-designed to include three different clinical cases, which students explored through in-class problem-based learning in small groups; reading of assigned research articles; and listening to pre-recorded audio lectures, which enabled course content delivery. In addition, classroom time was used for workshops focused on professional skills such as critical thinking, metacognition and working with reliable, evidence-based sources of information. As part of this research study, students were offered to write problem-solving and critical-thinking tests at the beginning and the end of the term.
46 students participated in the study. A statistically significant, 12% improvement in PSS test scores was observed, while the critical-thinking test scores did not improve.
Conclusions: Flipped classroom approach allowed students to use in-class time to work on ill-defined clinical problems in a small-group setting, which most likely led to significant improvement of their generic PSS. Since there was no improvement in critical thinking skills, alternative instructional strategies should be introduced to advance this important component of the soft skills of students.
Andis Klegeris currently holds a position of Professor at the Department of Biology on the University of British Columbia (UBC) Okanagan Campus in Canada. He obtained a DPhil degree from the University of Oxford, UK, and completed his post-doctoral training with Drs. McGeer at UBC.
In addition to his main research interests in neurobiology and neuroimmunology, Prof. Klegeris is involved in pedagogical innovation and research; he has adapted problem-based learning techniques to the large undergraduate classroom setting, and he studies the effects of active learning techniques on the problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities of students. He has also conducted several large-scale campus-wide studies of problem-solving skills of students aimed at discovering the dynamics of this skill set in undergraduate students, as well as identifying instructional techniques effective at advancing this critical ability of students.