Advancing Wellbeing Seminar Series: Michael Otto

September 19, 2016


MIT Media Lab, E14-633


A wealth of evidence indicates that exercise programs can relieve negative affect, alleviate stress, reduce both anxiety and anxiety sensitivity, and serve as a treatment for major depression with comparable efficacy to antidepressant medications. Exercise can also act as a sleep promoter and as a cognitive enhancer, with reliable effects on brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). In this presentation, Michael Otto will review the evidence for these effects and will discuss a number of potential mechanisms of action. In addition, this presentation is devoted to strategies for helping individuals understand and overcome the perils of good intentions and the pitfalls that derail exercise attempts. Emphasis is placed on strategies to help individuals get to exercise and how to make it more enjoyable. As such, this presentation provides attention to both exercise outcomes as well as the motivational strategies to get individuals to this successful intervention.


Michael W. Otto, PhD, is a professor in the department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Boston University. He has had a major career focus on developing and validating new psychosocial treatments for anxiety, mood, psychotic, and substance use disorders, with a particular focus on treatment refractory populations. This includes a translational research agenda investigating brain-behavior relationships in therapeutic learning. His focus on hard-to-treat conditions and principles underlying behavior-change failures led him to an additional focus on health behavior promotion, including investigations of addictive behaviors, medication adherence, sleep, and exercise. Across these health behaviors, he has been concerned with cognitive, attention, and affective factors that derail adaptive behaviors, and the factors that can rescue these processes. He also investigates exercise as an intervention for affective and addictive disorders, as well as for cognitive enhancement. He has over 400 publications spanning his research interests, and was identified as a “top producer” in the clinical empirical literature, and an ISI Highly Cited Researcher. He is a past president of the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and is president-elect of Division 12 of the American Psychological Association.

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