MRI Scanner Pointing at MRI

Cognitive Rehabilitation Neuroscience.

The overarching theme of the CNN Lab's research involves the translation of cognitive neuroscience research into brain and behaviour-based rehabilitation interventions to enhance higher cognitive (i.e. executive) functioning in healthy aging, acquired brain injury and brain disease - an approach described as cognitive rehabilitation neuroscience.

CNN Lab Research

Executive functions involve coordination and integration of specific cognitive processes (e.g., memory, sensory processing, language) in the service of more complex, goal-directed behaviours (e.g., planning, problem-solving, multi-tasking, inhibitory control). We utilize an array of cognitive neuroscience methods (e.g., fMRI, diffusion imaging) to measure the integrity of functional and structural neural networks subserving executive functioning and relate these to standard and experimental neuropsychological measures. These brain data subsequently guide assessment and treatment approaches.

Areas of Interest

Neural correlates of higher cognitive (i.e. executive control) functions in normal aging, brain injury and disease.

Neurorehabilitation interventions to enhance cognitive functioning in normal aging and neurological populations.

Integration of brain and behavioural measures in neuropsychological assessment.

Assessment of cognitive capacity in real-world settings.

Find out more about our current studies

Executive Control
of Attention (E.C.A.)

Project Lead: Sabrina Lemire-Rodger
Other researcher(s): Anas Saleh, Evan Connell

What does it mean to pay attention? This project aims to elucidate the relationship between different types of attention in the human brain. We are investigating the nature of the mediation attention over various time-spans, to ultimately lend clarity to a fractured literature on attentional control. This study includes both cognitive and neuroimaging projects, where participants get to test their ability to focus on different tasks.

Divergent Thinking

Project Lead: Areeba Adnan

The project is looking at the neural basis of divergent thinking in older adults. Specifically, I am interested in examining the default and executive control networks coordinated interaction to support divergent thinking processes both at the brain and behaviour level. Using this, I aim to propose novel hypotheses explaining the role of default and executive network coupling to support creative cognition in healthy aging.

The Role of the Default Network
During Controlled Processing

Project Lead: Jaeger Lam
Other researcher(s): Said Talani

In this project, we examine actvity within the default network during working memory tasks. Specifically, we look at how the default network can faciliate task performance when stimuli can engage stored representations.

Lifestyle Factors &
Neurocognitive Aging

Project Lead: Christina van den Brink
Other researcher(s): Donna Sherman

We are investigating the influence of lifestyle factors (such as diet and cardiorespiratory fitness) on neurocognitive aging. We examine aging in several different facets- such as changes in executive functioning, brain structure, and metrics of brain function using graph theory.


York University Neuroimaging Centre

Room 1009, Sherman Health Sciences Research Centre

The Sherman Health Science Research Centre's centerpiece is a neuroimaging laboratory suite that features the latest functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) technology. This facility gives York's researchers in-house access to this technology, which has many applications to human health. Read an overview of the facility.

Behavioural Assessment Suite

Room 1006, Sherman Health Sciences Research Centre

The CANN group has a dedicated behavioural assessment suite which is fully equipped for administration of the NIH Toolbox along with other computer-based and paper-pencil behavioural tasks. The NIH has developed a computer-based battery of behavioural measures spanning across four domains: emotion, cognition, motor and sensation.


----  Journal Articles  ----

By downloading these papers you agree to limit their use to personal academic purposes and not public dissemination.
For access to data, stimuli, materials, and analysis scripts please send an e-mail to

Spreng, R.N., Cassidy, B.N., Darboh, B., DuPre, E., Lockrow, A.W., Setton, R. & Turner, G.R. (in press). Financial exploitation is associated with structural and functional brain differences in healthy older adults. The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

Gallen, C. L., Turner, G.R., Adnan, A. and D'Esposito. M. (2016). Reconfiguration of brain network architecture to support executive control in aging. Neurobiology of Aging 44: 42-52.

Sharma, B., Tomaszczyk, J.C., Dawson, D., Turner, G.R., Colella, B., and Green, R.E. (2016). Feasibility of online self -administered cognitive training in moderate-severe brain injury. Disability Rehabilitation: 1-11.

Dey, A. K., Stamenova, V., Turner, G.R., Black, S.E., and Levine, B. (2016). Pathoconnectomics of cognitive impairment in small vessel disease: A systematic review. Alzheimer's & Dementia 12(7): 831-845.

Turner, G.R. & Spreng, R.N. (2015). Prefrontal engagement and reduced default network suppression co-occur and are dynamically coupled in older adults: The default - executive coupling hypothesis of aging. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 27 (12), 2462-2476.

Spreng, R.N., Gerlach, K.D., Turner, G.R. & Schacter, D.L. (2015). Autobiographical planning and the brain: Activation and its modulation by qualitative features. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 27 (11), 2147-2157.

Soh, D.W., Skocic, J., Nash, K., Stevens, S., Turner, G.R., Rovet, J. (2015). Self-regulation therapy increases frontal gray matter in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: evaluation by voxel-based morphometry. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 9 (108).

Spreng, R.N., DuPre, E., Selarka, D., Garcia, J., Gojkovic, S., Mildner, J., Luh, W.-M. & Turner, G.R. (2014). Goal-congruent default network activity facilitates cognitive control. Journal of Neuroscience. 34, 14108-14111.

Tomaszczyk, J. C., Green, N. L., Frasca, D., Colella, B., Turner, G.R., Christensen, B. K., & Green, R. E. (2014). Negative neuroplasticity in chronic traumatic brain injury and implications for neurorehabilitation. Neuropsychology Review 24(4):409-27.

Middleton, L., Lam, B., Fahmi, H., Black, S.E., McIlroy, W., Stuss, D., Danells, C., Ween, J. & Turner, G.R. (2014). Prevalence of domain-specific cognitive impairment in sub-acute and chronic stroke. Neurorehabilitation.34 (2), 305-312.

Persson, J., Spreng, R.N., Turner, G.R., Herlitz, A., Morell, A., Stening, E., Wahlund, L.-O. Wikström, J., Söderlund, H. (2014). Sex differences in volume and structural covariance of the anterior and posterior hippocampus. NeuroImage, 99, 215-225.

Spreng, R.N. & Turner, G.R. (2013). Structural covariance of the default network in healthy and pathological aging. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(38). 15226-15234.

Patel, R., Spreng, R.N. & Turner, G.R. (2013). Functional brain changes following cognitive and motor skills training: A quantitative meta-analysis. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, 27, 187-199.

Spreng, R.N., Sepulcre, J., Turner, G.R., Stevens, W.D., & Schacter, D.L. (2013). Intrinsic architecture underlying the relations among the default, dorsal attention, and frontoparietal control networks of the human brain. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 25, 74-86.

Turner, G.R. & Spreng, R.N. (2012). Executive control and neurocognitive aging: Dissociable patterns of brain activity for working memory and inhibition. Neurobiology of Aging. 33, 826.e1-826.e13.

Turner, G.R., McIntosh, A.R., Levine, B. (2012). Dissecting altered functional engagement in TBI and other patient groups through connectivity analysis: one goal, many paths (a response to Hillary). Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience. doi: 10.3389/ fnsys.2012.00010.

Noakovic-Agopian, T., Chen, A.J.W., Rome, S. Rossi, A., Abrams, G., D'Esposito, M., Turner, G.R. et al., (2012). Assessment of Sub-components of Executive Functioning in Ecologically Valid Settings: The Goal Processing Scale. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation.

Chen, A-J.W., Britton, M. Turner, G.R., Vytlacil, J., Thompson, T., D'Esposito, M. (2012). Goal-directed attention alters the tuning of object-based representations in extrastriate cortex. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Crete-Nishihata, M., Baecker, R.M., Massimi, M., Ptak, D., Campigotto, R., Kaufman, L.D., Brickman, A.M., Turner, G.R., Steinerman, J., and Black, S.E. (2012). Reconstructing the Past: Personal Memory Technologies Are Not Just Personal and Not Just for Memory. Human-Computer Interaction. 27(1-2). 1-32.

Chen, A.J-R, Nycum, T., Novakovic-Agopian, T., Turner, G.R., D'Esposito, M. (2011). Training of goal-directed attention regulation enhances control over neural processing for individuals with brain injury. Brain, 134 (Pt. 5). 1541-1554.

Koshimori, Y., Turner, G.R., Mikulis, D., Crawley, & Green, R.E.A. (2010) Diffusion tensor imaging vs conventional MRI for single case diagnosis of traumatic brain injury in spinal cord injury patients. Brain Injury, 24(3), 458-459.

Turner, G.R., McIntosh, A.R., Levine, B. (2011). Prefrontal compensatory engagement in TBI is due to altered functional engagement of existing networks and not functional reorganization. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, 5:9, doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2011.00009.

Levine, B., Schweizer, T.A., O'Connor, C., Turner, G.R., Gillingham, S., Stuss, D.T., Manly, T., Robertson, I.H. (2011). Rehabilitation of executive functioning in patients with frontal lobe brain damage: A randomized control trial of Goal Management Training. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 5:9, doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2011.00009.

Koshimori, Y., Turner, G.R. and Green, R.E.A. (2010). Research Digest: Mild-traumatic brain injury - a diagnostic challenge. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation. 20(3), 471-478.

Green, R.E.A. and Turner, G.R. (2010). Growing evidence for influence of meditation on brain and behaviour. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation.

Levine, B., Svoboda, E.M., Turner, G.R., Mandic, M., & Mackey, A. (2009). Behavioral and functional neuroanatomical correlates of autobiographical memory in isolated retrograde amnesic patient M.L. Neuropsychologia, 47(11). Pages 2188-2196.

Turner, G.R. and Levine, B. (2008). Augmented neural recruitment during executive control processing following diffuse axonal injury. Neurology, 71, 812-818.

Turner, G.R. and Green, R.E.A. (2008). Cognitive remediation in aging and ABI: A question of negative plasticity? Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 18(3), 372-384.

Schweizer, T.A., Levine, B., Rewilak, D., O'Connor, C., Turner, G.R., Alexander, M.P., Cusimano, M. Manly, T., Robertson, I., & Stuss, D.T. (2008). Rehabilitation of executive functioning after focal damage to the cerebellum. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, 22, 72-77.

Turner, G.R. and Levine, B. (2006). fMRI of delayed response performance in healthy adults and the limits of cross-method convergence. Neuroscience, 139(1). 327-337.

Green, R.E.A., Turner G.R., Thompson, W.F. (2004). Deficits in facial emotion perception in adults with recent traumatic brain injury. Neuropsychologia, 42. 133-141. Co-Investigator

Levine, B., Turner, G.R., Tisserand, D.J., Graham, S.I., Hevenor, S.J., McIntosh, A.R. (2004). The functional neuroanatomy of episodic and semantic autobiographical remembering: a prospective study. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 1633-1646.

----  Book Chapters  ----

Spreng, R.N., Shoemaker, L. & Turner. G.R. (forthcoming). Executive functions and neurocognitive aging. In Goldberg, E., ed. Executive functions in health and disease. New York: Elsevier Academic Press.

Turner, G.R. & D'Esposito, M., (2012). Neurorehabilitation of executive functions. To appear in Textbook of neural repair and rehabilitation 2nd edition. Selzer (Ed.).

Turner, G. R. and D'Esposito, M. (2010). Functional neuroimaging in aging. Clinical Neurology of Aging, 3rd Edition. Knoefel, J. and Albert, M.L. (Eds). Oxford University Press.

Levine, B., Turner, G.R., Stuss, D. T. (2008). Rehabilitation of frontal lobe disorders. In Cognitive Neurorehabilitation: Evidence & Applications (2nd Edition). Stuss, D.T., Winocur, G., Robertson, I. H. (Eds.).

Turner, G.R. and Levine, B. (2004). Disorders of executive functioning and self awareness. In Cognitive and Behavioural Rehabilitation, J. Ponsford (Ed.). 224-268.

----  Funding Sources  ----

NSERC CIHR CPSR York University


Principal Investigator

Gary Turner

Gary R. Turner, Ph.D., C Psych.

Associate Professor
Department of Psychology
Faculty of Health
York University

Adjunct Scientist
Heart and Stroke Foundation Partnership for Stroke Recovery
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre


As principal investigator I'm dedicated to building the lab as a global centre of excellence in cognitive neuroscience and neurorehabilitation. My goal is to create a scientific and learning environment that will motivate trainees to push the boundaries of translational neuroscience. When not in the lab, I'm usually chasing my dog who is chasing squirrels throughout the many amazing ravines in the city. Outside of Toronto I spend as much time as possible on the shores of the North (Newfoundland) and South (Brasil) Atlantic.

Graduate Students

Christina van den Brink

Areeba Adnan - BSc, M.A; Phd Candidate 3rd Year

My research interests include investigating the neural underpinnings of divergent thinking in older adults and investigating the functional network dynamics that support divergent thinking in the aging brain. Outside of research, my hobbies include photography, home decor and singing silly songs to my daughter.

Christina van den Brink

Christina van den Brink, MA, Ph.D. Student

I am a first year PhD student in the Clinical Psychology program (Neuropsychology stream). I defended my Masters this summer investigating sex differences in the influence of brain and lifestyle factors on neurocognitive aging. Broadly, I am interested in investigating mechanisms influencing neuroplasticity in order to ultimately inform treatment intervention and promote brain health. When I'm not in the lab, I love to hike, cook, and be outdoors.

Christina van den Brink

Jaeger Lam, MA, Ph.D. Student

I received my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto where I researched the neural basis of personality, and borderline personality disorder under the supervision of Dr. Anthony Ruocco. Currently, I am enrolled in the Clinical Psychology (Clinical Neuropsychology Stream) under the supervision of Dr. Gary Turner. I use functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate neural networks that mediate the relationship between executive functions and memory. Additionally, I am interested in how personality affects the expression of cognitive processes on a neural level. In the future, I hope to investigate the neural basis of psychopathy from a network perspective. Outside of the lab, I enjoy listening and playing to different kinds of music.

Sabrina Lemire-Rodger

Sabrina Lemire-Rodger, BScH, MA

3rd year Doctoral Student

I am a member of the Clinical Neuropsychology stream within the Clinical Psychology program here at York, which means I am getting in depth training in neuropsychological assessment, cognitive rehabilitation and psychotherapy as well as cognitive neuroscience research. My work in the Turner lab focuses on different aspects of executive functioning in the human brain, across the life span. My masters thesis investigated the dissociation between neural networks underlying working memory, inhibition and task switching. My doctoral work is now examining the top-down control of attention. In the past, my research interests included meta-cognition, reasoning and theory of mind in both humans and animals. I completed my BScH in Psychology from Queen's University where I studied visual attention in rhesus macaques. Before joining the CNN lab, I worked with Dr. Bradley Buchsbaum studying visual and auditory memory at the Rotman Research Institute. I also completed a dolphin research internship in Key Largo, Florida (Yes: dolphins have minds, too! But I prefer working with people - less fish handling.) When I am not nerding out on brain stuff, you'll find me training my dog "Pavlov", hiking a tall mountain, or sailing on Lake Ontario.

Bri Darboh

Bri Darboh

1st year Master's Student

I am in the first year of my master's of clinical neuropsychology at York University. I am particularly drawn to theory and research related to age-related cognitive decline. In the CNN lab, my research focuses on exploring the neural and cognitive underpinnings of wisdom. I am also the research project manager for a large collaborative study between the CNN lab and the Laboratory of Brain and Cognition at Cornell University, in which we are exploring the changes in goal-directed cognition associated with healthy aging through a wide variety of behavioural and neuroimaging assessments. Prior to becoming a graduate student, I completed my Honours Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at York University. Given that I am a huge car enthusiast, basketball fan, and a self-proclaimed professional shower singer, I like to spend the majority of my free time working on my car, watching the Raptors play, or listening to music.

Undergraduate Students

Anas Saleh

Anas Saleh

Project Manager, Undergraduate Honours Thesis 2016

I am a senior at York University completing my BSc Honours in Psychology. I joined the CANN Lab as a research assistant in November 2014 and then went on to complete my honours thesis under the supervision of Dr. Gary Turner where I studied the cognitive mechanisms underlying attention. Currently, I am overseeing a large data collection and processing effort for a follow-up project that I developed with PhD candidate, Sabrina Lemire-Rodger, to further examine the different aspects of the executive control of attention in the human brain. My interests in cognitive neuroscience are broad, although I have a particular interest in how memory and overall cognitive functioning change over the course of one's lifetime. Outside the lab, I enjoy reading, listening to music, and keeping up to date with politics.

Donna Sherman

Donna Sherman

Undergraduate Honours Thesis, Psychology 2018

I am a perpetual student currently pursuing a B.Sc. in Psychology and Biology. I am working on my honours thesis under the supervision of Dr. Gary Turner and Christina van den Brink, examining the tangled relationship between diet and cognitive health throughout the lifespan. My areas of interest also include genetics, neuroscience, and behavioural psychology. I have a previous degree in Journalism with a minor in Classical Civilization from Carleton University. After graduating, I hope to complete a Master's in genetic counselling, and pursue a career in the field. On the rare occasions that I am not thinking about school, I enjoy reading for fun, traveling, cuddling dogs, and playing saxophone.

Evan Connell

Evan Connell, BA

Undergraduate Honours Thesis, Psychology 2016

I am a fourth year undergraduate student in the Bachelor of Arts Honours Psychology Program at York University. Currently, I am working on my honours thesis under the supervision of Dr. Gary Turner and Sabrina Lemire-Rodger examining the neural basis of sustained attention and task switching. Other areas of research that interest me are cognitive neuroscience of executive functions and how these processes change with age. Outside the lab I enjoy travelling, spending time with friends (and especially their pets), and binge watching shows on Netflix.

Said Talani

Said Talani

Undergraduate Honours Thesis Student 2016-2017

I am currently completing my fourth year in the Bachelor of Science Honours Psychology program at York University. I am working on my thesis under the supervision of Dr. Gary R. Turner and the mentorship of Jaeger Lam, where we are investigating the neural processes that are associated with interactions between memory and executive function. More specifically, my study is concerned with the effects of visual familiarity on working memory performance. When I get some time off you can find me playing soccer, watching nature documentaries, or on the set of various locally filmed television shows as a background actor.


Udi Alter

Udi Alter, B.Sc. Spec. Hon. Psychology

Lab Manager

I am the Lab Manager of the joint CANN laboratory (CNN & CAN). I recently completed my undergraduate degree at York University. My thesis focused on the impact different aspects of physical health (cardio-respiratory fitness and physical activity) have on brain structure (gray matter volume in the precuneus and prefrontal cortex) and executive functioning, and examined the sex differences this relationship has on healthy older adults. In the lab, I predominantly oversee data collection and analysis, and the recruitment, training, and management of staff - especially in relation to the Goal-D project. In my spare time, I enjoy painting, reading, traveling, snowboarding/skateboarding (depending on the season), and spending time with my family and friends.


C.N.N Participation Form

Our goal is to learn more about thinking skills, such as reasoning, memory, and attention, and how these skills change with aging. We conduct both behavioural and brain imaging studies in our lab at York University and are always looking for individuals of all ages to come in and participate!

If you are eligible and enroll in our study, participation will involve answering questionnaires, performing cognitive tasks, and/or possibly having an fMRI scan.

Would you be interested in being screened to see if you're eligible for this research? If so please contact us using the form to the right. All personal information given will be held confidential. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Age:* Gender:*

Did you complete most of your education in an English speaking program?

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Need some help finding us?

We are located in room 1006 in the Sherman Health Sciences Research Centre (SHR) at York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada conveniently across the hall from the neuroimaging suite. Please use the maps above to find your way to our lab!

Or use the interactive Keele Campus map on the York University Website.

We would love to hear from you!

Mailing Address:
Sherman Health Sciences Research Centre
York University
4700 Keele St.
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3

Telephone: +1(416)-736-2100 ext. 33516