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Dr Flaminia Ronca
Dr Flaminia Ronca profile picture
  • Associate Professor (Teaching)
  • Department of Targeted Intervention
  • Div of Surgery & Interventional Sci
  • Faculty of Medical Sciences

I obtained my PhD in Human Physiology & Exercise in London, UK. I have since been very fortunate to work with some of the best neuroscientists and engineers in their fields to develop together the area of Exercise Neuroscience. We founded the Exercise Neuroscience Research Group (ENRG) at UCL, which I co-lead, to establish this exciting and growing scientific field. This research has been influencing policy and decision making in various fields, from law enforcement to primary education.

My research has led me to work closely with law enforcement organisations to support the performance and wellbeing of officers. It is a privilege to be able to work with our partners and see the real world impact of our research on human health and performance.

My passion for social impact has led me work with schools and charities nationally and internationally. I am a strong advocate for social mobility and seek ways to facilitate this through my work. I founded and directed a youth charity in Tottenham, London, for 8 years, where we have successfully supported 600+ young people through mentoring, education and sport, seeing numerous members successfully enrol in further/higher education, obtain internships or employment and improve their quality of life through tailored support. I sat on the Mayor of London's Sport and Serious Youth Violence Steering Group, and have worked closely with the Metropolitan Police to tackle youth crime and antisocial behaviour through community partnerships. Upon closing the charity in 2021, I opened the ENRG scholarship fund which ran during Covid lockdown to support disadvantaged young people who were struggling to pursue higher education. I work closely with international charities, such as Volunteers Foundation, Kenya, to support child development through high quality education, mental wellbeing and physical activity. 

Research Summary

My principal research interests lie in the interaction between the body and the brain through exercise. I co-lead the the Exercise Neuroscience Research Group (ENRG) at UCL, which is a collaboration between the Faculty of Medical Sciences, the Faculty of Brain Sciences and UCL Engineering. Our group focuses on the mechanisms through which physical activity impacts brain health and cognitive function in children and in adults.

We have so far focused on the acute and long-term impact of exercise on executive function, and on brain activity in the prefrontal cortex. We use fNIRS to detect hemodynamic changes as a result of short term exercise sessions, and adaptations to longer term exercise programmes. It is remarkable to see how our health and fitness can have such profound effects on our brain health. We are applying our findings to support decision making in law enforcement and other emergency workers, and working with the community to promote healthy ageing and mental wellbeing. 

A large portion of this work is focused on children. I have been leading several projects on health, exercise and cognitive development in children in the UK and abroad. Through this research we are discovering the complex relationship between obesity, physical activity and executive function in children. It is a privilege to be able to work with schools and charities across the world. I am grateful for our partners' support in helping us develop and deliver this important research, which is having a direct, and hopefully long-lasting, impact on children and their development.

I am also very fortunate to work closely with police and emergency forces, where I support the health, wellbeing and performance of officers through scientific research. I have led various projects centred around fitness standards and performance, as well as studying the impact of physical exertion on decision making and executive function in operational settings. This research has led to changes in policy and strategic decisions in established forces. 

Teaching Summary

I am the programme director of the iBSc and BSc courses in Sport and Exercise Medical Sciences at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health (ISEH). 

In 2021 I substantially redeveloped the BSc programme to deliver a new, unique and innovative programme that will produce experienced graduates with practical experience and insight in clinical applications of exercise and physical activity, in both clinical and athletic contexts. I have embedded Community Engaged Learning in the new programme, which will enable us to work with local community partners, delivering impact while also giving students real world professional experience in their degree. 

I am a strong believer in research-led education and involving students in all aspects of the research process. I supervise undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD students from multiple faculties to facilitate interdisciplinary research under the Connected Curriculum framework. 

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