Center Spotlight: Dr. James Shih

February 12, 2024


By Dayne Hopkins

Meet Doctor James Shih, a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology, and a Michigan Concussion Center member. James began his academic journey with a major in psychology, and through his love for sports, particularly volleyball, he found his academic focus in exercise psychology, aligning his academic pursuits with his passion for sports.

Upon coming to the United States from Taipei, Taiwan, James pursued a PhD program centered on exercise and cognitive function. He investigated under which circumstances and for whom exercise may benefit cognitive performance. His research journey includes working with diverse populations such as children with ADHD and older adults with Alzheimer’s. He later began his first postdoctoral experience at UNC, shifting his focus to studying people affected by Parkinson’s disease. Utilizing neuroimaging techniques, he explored the underlying brain mechanisms that link physical activity and cognitive function in individuals with Parkinson’s.

Following his first postdoc, James made the move to Ohio with his wife and shifted his research focus to trauma experiences and PTSD development. This is when he found an exciting opportunity at the University of Michigan Concussion Center. While attending a conference he came in contact with Dr. Eleanna Varangis, assistant professor of Movement Science and Michigan Concussion Center member. They traded X (formerly known as Twitter) handles and that led to James finding the open position. 

Currently, James is engaged in a follow-up study initiated by Dr. James (JT) Eckner, associate professor in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, and Michigan Concussion Center Research associate director, investigating different types of sport participation and their impact on cognitive brain health. 

Acknowledging the influence of his dissertation advisors and postdoc mentors, James expresses gratitude for their invaluable guidance in shaping his academic and career paths. He also emphasizes the significant strides made in big data, recognizing its role in advancing research in recent years.

Balancing academics and personal life, James emphasizes the importance of downtime. Although he no longer plays volleyball, he has embraced pickleball as his new favorite pastime. His future plans include continued publication, securing grants, and mastering his pickleball skills. Since joining the University of Michigan in October 2023, he has appreciated the supportive and vibrant community, expressing eagerness to explore more of Ann Arbor and build new connections on campus.