Paul van Donkelaar


School of Health and Exercise Sciences
Office: ADM006K
Phone: 250.863.3230

Graduate student supervisor

Research Summary

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

Dr. van Donkelaar is currently not accepting any new graduate students.


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.

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:

  • Dr. Shambhu Adhikari, Ph.D. – Post-doctoral fellow
  • Stephanie Ashton – Ph.D. student
  • Bradi Lorenz – Ph.D. student
  • Rory Marshall – Ph.D. student
  • Tori Stranges – Ph.D. student
  • Setareh Tehrani – Ph.D. student

Recent Lab Alumni:

Selected Publications & Presentations

Peer-reviewed publications (last 5 years)

Trotman, M., Kennefick, M., Coughlin, S., van Donkelaar, P., Dalton, B.H. The effect of increased cognitive processing on reactive balance control following perturbations to the upper limb. Experimental Brain Research, 240:1317-1329.

Smirl, J.D., Peacock, D., Burma, J., Wright, A.D., Bouliane, K.J., Dierijck, J., Kennefick, M., Wallace, C., van Donkelaar, P. (2022) An acute bout of controlled subconcussive impacts can alter dynamic cerebral autoregulation indices: A preliminary investigation. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 122: 1059-1070.

Boyle, Q., van Donkelaar, P., Illes, J. (2021) Methods in neuroethics. Encyclopedia of Behavioural Neuroscience, 2nd Ed. (Della Sala, S. (Ed)), pp. 240-245.

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, 15:475-503.

Maldonado-Rodriguez, N., Crocker, C.G.V., Taylor, E., Jones, K.E., Rothlander, K., Smirl, J., Wallace, C., van Donkelaar, P. (2021) Characterization of cognitive-motor function in women who have experienced intimate partner violence-related brain injury. Journal of Neurotrauma, 38:2723-2730.

Nicol, B., van Donkelaar, P., Mason, K., Gainforth, H (2021) Using behavior change theory to understand how to support screening for traumatic brain injuries among women who have experienced intimate partner violence. Women’s Health Reports, 2: 305-315.

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, 238:869-881.

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, 33:1529-1538.

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, 49:1623-1631.

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,

Selected Grants & Awards

Health Innovation Funding Investment (UBC Health)
Title: Virtual Reality training tool to facilitate police investigations of head injury and strangulation in intimate partner violence cases
Amount: $25,000
Period: 2022-2023
Principal Investigators: Babul, S., van Donkelaar, P.

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.

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


Recent Media Coverage:

The Hidden Epidemic of Brain Injuries from Domestic Violence. The New York Times Magazine, March 2022.

How Does Intimate Partner Violence Impact Women’s Brain Health? Women’s Health Interrupted podcast, January 2022.

Supporting survivors of abuse and brain injury through research. @WomensReseach podcast, October 2021.

‘We need to study women’: Traumatic brain injury in survivors of intimate partner violence. The Fuller Project, May 2021.

Violence conjugale et traumatismes crâniens: les coups oubliés. Radio-Canada, March 2021

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

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




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