Paul van Donkelaar


School of Health and Exercise Sciences
Office: ADM006K
Phone: 250.807.8858

Graduate student supervisor

Research Summary

van Donkelaar's research focuses on gaining a better understanding of traumatic brain injury (TBI) due to sports concussion or intimate partner violence.


Supporting Survivors of Abuse and Brain Injury through Research

Women’s Support Workers Module of the Concussion Awareness Training Tool


1987: B.P.E. – University of British Columbia
1990: M.P.E. – University of British Columbia
1994: Ph.D. – University of Calgary

Research Interests & Projects

The research taking place in my lab focuses on gaining a better understanding of traumatic brain injury (TBI) due to sports concussion or intimate partner violence. For this purpose, we measure cerebrovascular, neurocognitive, sensorimotor, and blood biomarker variables using a suite of state-of-the-art equipment including the following:

For our research on intimate partner violence, we are using an integrated knowledge translation approach with the goal of co-designing and creating TBI-informed tools and resources for front line staff working at community organizations supporting survivors.

Current Lab Members:

Recent Lab Alumni:

Selected Publications & Presentations

Peer-reviewed publications (last 5 years)

Esopenko, C., Meyer, J., Wilde, E.A., Marshall, A.D., Tate, D.F., Lin, A.P., Koerte, I.K., Werner, K.B., Dennis, E.L., Ware, A.L., de Souza, N.L., Menefee, D.S., Dams-O’Connor, K., Stein, D.J., Bigler, E.D., Shenton, M.E., Chiou, K.S., Postmus, J.L., Monahan, K., Eagan-Johnson, B., van Donkelaar, P., Merkley, T.L,, Velez, C., Hodges, C.B., Lindsey, H.M., Johnson, P., Irimia, A., Spruiell, M., Bennett, E.R., Bridwell, A., Zieman, G., Hillary, F.G. (2021) A global collaboration to study intimate partner violence-related head trauma: The ENIGMA consortium IPV working group. Brain Imaging and Behavior, doi: 10.1007/s11682-020-00417-0.

Smirl, J.D., Peacock, D., Wright, A.D., Bouliane, K.J., Dierijck, J., Burma, J.S., Kennefick, M., Wallace, C., van Donkelaar, P. (2020) An acute bout of soccer heading subtly alters neurovascular coupling metrics, Frontiers in Neurology, doi: 10.3389/fneur.2020.00738. 

Kennefick, M., McNeil, C.J., Burma, J.S., Copeland, P.V., van Donkelaar, P., Dalton, B.H. (2020) Modulation of vestibular-evoked responses prior to simple and complex arm movements. Experimental Brain Research, doi: 10.1007/s00221-020-05760-8.

Dierijck, J.K., Kennefick, M., Smirl, J.D., Dalton, B.H., van Donkelaar, P. (2020) Attention is required to coordinate reaching and postural stability during upper limb movements generated while standing. Journal of Motor Behavior, 52, 79-88.

Smirl, J.D., Jones, K.E., Copeland, P., Khatra, O., Taylor, E., van Donkelaar, P. (2019) Characterizing symptoms of traumatic brain injury in survivors of intimate partner violence. Brain Injury, 33(12):1529-1538.

Fraser, S., Wright, A.D., van Donkelaar, P., Smirl, J.D. (2019) Cross-sectional comparison of spiral versus block integrated curriculums in preparing medical students to diagnose and manage concussions. BMC Medical Education,

Kennefick, M., Burma, J.S., van Donkelaar, P., McNeil, C.J. (2019a) Corticospinal excitability is enhanced while preparing for complex movements. Experimental Brain Research, 237, 829-837.

Kennefick, M. Burma, J.S., van Donkelaar, P., McNeil, C.J. (2019b) The time course of motorneuronal excitability during the prepartion of complex movements. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 31, 781-790.

Lo, O.Y., van Donkelaar, P., Chou, L.-S. (2019) Effect of transcranial direct current stimulation over the right posterior parietal cortex on attention function in healthy young adults. European Journal of Neuroscience, doi: 10.1111/ejn.14349.

Dierijck, J.K., Wright, A.D., Smirl, J.D., Bryk, K. van Donkelaar, P. (2018) Sub-concussive trauma, acute concussion, and history of multiple concussions: effects on quiet stance postural control stability. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 132, 74-80.

Kennefick M, Wright AD, Smirl JD, van Donkelaar P. (2018) Anticipatory postural adjustments as a function of response complexity in simple reaction time tasks. Neuroscience Letters, 684, 1-5.

Schmidt, J., Hayward, K.S., Brown, K.E., Zwicker, J.G., Ponsford, J., van Donkelaar, P., Babul, S., Boyd, L.A. (2018) Imaging in pediatric concussion: A systematic review. Pediatrics, .

van Donkelaar, P., Dierijck, J., Wright, A.D., Smirl, J.D. (2018) A history of concussion does not lead to an increase in ocular near point of convergence. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 39: 682-687.

Wallace, C., Smirl, J.D., Zetterberg, H., Blennow, K., Bryk, K., Burma, J., Dierijck, J., Wright, A.D., van Donkelaar, P. (2018) Heading in football increases serum neurofilament light protein and SCAT3 symptom metrics. BMJ Open Sports and Exercise Medicine, 

Wallace, C., Zetterberg, H., Blennow, K., van Donkelaar, P. (2018) No change in plasma tau and serum neurofilament light concentrations in adolescent athletes following sport-related concussion. PLoS One,

Wright, A.D., Smirl, J.D., Bryk, K., Jakovac, M., van Donkelaar, P. (2018) A prospective transcranial Doppler ultrasound-based evaluation of the effects of repetitive subconcussive head trauma on neurovascular coupling dynamics. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000578.

Wright, A.D., Smirl, J.D., Bryk, K., Fraser, S, Jakovac, M., van Donkelaar, P. (2018a) Sport-related concussion alters indices of dynamic cerebral autoregulation. Frontiers in Neurology,

Wright, A.D., Smirl, J.D., Bryk, K., Fraser, S, Jakovac, M., van Donkelaar, P. (2018b) Cerebral autoregulation is disrupted following a season of contact sports participation. Frontiers in Neurology,

Hermosillo, R.J.M., Carmody, J., Ugoalah, N., Lee, J.-H., Binsted, G., van Donkelaar, P. (2017) Motor planning influences the perceived timing of vibrotactile stimuli in an amplitude-dependent manner. Journal of Motor Behavior, 49: 172-178.

Shultz, S.R., McDonald, S.J., Vonder Haar, C., Meconi, A., Vink, R., van Donkelaar, P., Taneja, C., Iverson, G.L., Christie, B.R. (2017) The potential for animal models to provide insight into mild traumatic brain injury: Translational challenges and strategies. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 76: 396-414.

Wright, A.D., Smirl, J.D., Bryk, K., van Donkelaar, P. (2017) A prospective transcranial Doppler ultrasound-based evaluation of the acute and cumulative effects of sport-related concussion on neurovascular coupling response dynamics. Journal of Neurotrauma, 34: 3097-3106.

Selected Grants & Awards

Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health Kickstart Grant
Title: Characterizing tau pathology in survivors of intimate partner violence-related traumatic brain injury
Amount: $30,000
Period: 2020-2021
Principal Investigator: van Donkelaar, P.

CIHR Project Grant
Title: Using Cerebrovascular Biomarkers to Characterize Traumatic Brain Injury associated with Intimate Partner Violence
Amount: $252,450
Period: 2020-2023
Principal Investigator: van Donkelaar, P.

Anonymous Donor
Title: Changing the Conversation: Integrating Traumatic Brain Injury Knowledge into Community-Based Supports
Amount: $500,000
Period: 2019-2022
Principal Investigator: van Donkelaar, P.

Department of Women and Gender Equality
Title: Generating and Translating Knowledge on Intimate Partner Violence and Traumatic Brain Injury
Amount: $1,000,000
Period: 2019-2024
Principal Investigator: van Donkelaar, P.

Max Bell Foundation Grant
Title: Integrating Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness into Support for Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence
Amount: $100,000
Period: 2018-2020
Principal Investigator: van Donkelaar, P.

NSERC Discovery Grant
Title: Neural Mechanisms of Predictive Movement Planning
Amount: $140,000
Period: 2017-2022
Principal Investigator: van Donkelaar, P.



Traumatic brain injury: The unseen impact of domestic violence. National Post, April 2018.

Recent Media Coverage:

I Lobe You podcast on intimate partner violence-related brain injury, June 2020.

Brain injury from domestic abuse a ‘public health crisis’ says BC researcher. CBC News, Dec 2019.

Brain injury’s ‘invisible epidemic’: survivors of intimate partner violence. Global News, Oct 2019.

New project to research brain injuries caused by domestic violence. Vancouver Sun, July 2019.




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