Dr Sam Lucas PhD, BSc, BPhEd (hons)

Dr Sam Lucas

School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences
Senior Lecturer in Exercise and Environmental Physiology

Contact details

School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Sam Lucas is an integrative physiologist with a primary research interest in brain health; specifically he is interested in how cerebral blood flow is regulated in health and disease, and the resultant impact on brain function (e.g., neurophysiological and psychological/behavioural responses). His broader interests and expertise are in the areas of exercise and environmental physiology, as well as physical activity and health. 


2015 - PGCert in Academic Practice (Associate), University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

2008 - PhD, University of Otago, New Zealand

2002 - Bachelor of Science (Physiology), University of Otago, New Zealand

2001 - Bachelor of Physical Education (Hons, 1st class), University of Otago, New Zealand

1996 - Certificate in Outdoor Recreation Leadership and Management, Tai Poutini Polytechnic, Greymouth, New Zealand

1995 - Certificate in Outdoor Recreation, Tai Poutini Polytechnic, Greymouth, New Zealand


Dr Lucas completed his PhD in 2008 at the University of Otago, New Zealand. His thesis investigated the physiological and cognitive consequences of prolonged exercise. Dr Lucas then had 5 years post-doctoral training focused primarily around techniques to measure cerebral perfusion and understanding the integrative mechanisms that regulate cerebral blood flow during stress and how this may be altered in different populations.

Dr Lucas joined the University of Birmingham as a Lecturer in March 2013.


Dr Lucas contributes across all three undergraduate years within the BSc Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences degree programme, teaching fundamental and applied physiology principles in both lecture- and laboratory-based settings.

Details of modules:

1st year:            Human Physiology and Exercise; Physical Activity and Health (2015/16 – 2018/19)

2nd year:           Applied Exercise Physiology (Module lead)

3rd year:           Performing in Extreme Environments/Environmental Physiology; Exercise is Medicine

In addition, Dr Lucas supervisors a number of 3rd year, taught MSc/MedSci and MRes dissertation projects each year within the School, as well as contributes to other degree programmes across campus (e.g., Biomedical Science BSc; MSc in Psychology (teaching on Introduction to Neuroscientific Methods module). 

Postgraduate supervision

Dr Lucas has supervised numerous research Masters and PhD students in New Zealand, Canada and the UK, and Postdoctoral Fellows at UoB. As both a primary and co-supervisor Dr Lucas has 14 PhD and 11 MSc (research) completions, and currently co/supervises 6 PhD and 3 MSc (research) students. The details of his graduate student supervision are listed below:

Postdoctoral Fellows

2021-         Kelsey Joyce, University of Birmingham, UK

2018-19    Dr Claire Burley, University of Birmingham, UK

PhD students

University of Birmingham, UK

2019-         Guy Perkins: Application and development of functional near infrared spectroscopy and high density diffuse optical tomography to assess traumatic brain injury (co-supervisor).

2018-         Alessio Daniele: The impact of aerobic fitness on the acute vascular effects of cocoa flavanols’ during uninterrupted sitting (co-supervisor).

2018-         Ben Price (part time): Heat thermotherapy and cardiovascular and cardiometabolic health (co-PI).

2018-         Rachel Gifford (part time): Effect of heat acclimation on intestinal function and immune responses in males and females during prolonged exercise in hot conditions (co-PI).

2017-         Samuel Weaver: In vitro and in vivo vascular response to exercise-induced changes in blood flow. (PI)

2016-         Beth Skinner (part time): The effect of female sex hormones on cerebrovascular function (co-PI).

2018-21    Kelsey Joyce: Urinary alpha-1 acid glycoprotein and its utilisation for the evaluation of proteinuria mechanisms (PI).

2017-21    Nathalie Kirby: Heat acclimation protocols and performance outcomes in high-level athletes. (co-PI).

2016-20    Mohammed Rupawala: Developing the physical and computational sciences of multimodal imaging (optical and electrophysiological) for improving diagnostic accuracy in disorders of consciousness (co-supervisor).

2014-20    Neil Dallaway: Mental Fatigue and Exercise Performance (co-supervisor).

2014-18    Claire Burley: A multimodal investigation of brain health: Cerebral blood flow, cognitive performance and quality of life (PI).

2014-17    Michael Clancy: Application and development of high density functional near infrared spectroscopy for traumatic brain injury (co-supervisor).

2014-18    Shoug Al Humoud: Effect of Sleep Quality on Cardiopulmonary Status (co-supervisor).

University of Otago, NZ

2016-19      Leena Shoemaker: The cerebrovascular role of cognition during physiological stress (co-supervisor).

2011-18      Carl Bradford: Acute and adaptive responses to endurance swimming in warm water (co-supervisor).

2012-17      Ashley Akerman: Cardiovascular adaptations to exercise, heat and dehydration (co-supervisor).

2010-17      Rob Creasy (part time): The stress and strain of triathlon racing in different thermal environments (co-supervisor).

2010-16      Kate Thomas (part time): Stress Conditioning for Peripheral Arterial Disease (co-supervisor).

2011-14      Blake Perry: The Effect of Static and Dynamic Changes in Blood Pressure on Brain Blood Flow in Healthy Humans (co-PI).

2008-11     Nia Lewis: Dr Lewis conducted four (of five) of her studies while on a 6-month exchange at the University of Otago Liverpool John Moores University, UK (co-supervisor).

MSc (Research)

University of Birmingham, UK

2020 -       Tarondeep Nijjar: Investigating immune cell function responses to different exercise strategies (co-supervisor)

2019-         Ellon Hart: The mechanisms of acute kidney strain in response to prolonged exercise in different environmental conditions (co-PI).

2019-        Jack Feron: The effects of nutritional supplementation with nicotinamide riboside and pterostilbene on acute vascular and metabolic responses during exercise and recovery (co-PI).

2018-20      Amy Booth: The effect of nicotinamide riboside and pterostilbene on exercise performance at altitude (PI).

2018-20      James Gibbon: Post exercise Sauna bathing is an effective method of heat acclimating middle distance and endurance runners (co-supervisor).

2018-20      Chris Bradley: The impact of two different dosing courses of acetazolamide on ventilatory sensitivity to hypoxia in a young and old cohort (co-supervisor).

2017-19      Rhodri Furlong: Examining the effects of moderate intensity exercise and high intensity interval training on cerebral blood flow and neurovascular signalling factors during cycling (PI).

2017-19      Rosie Pritchard: Effects of short term nutraceutical ingestion on cerebral blood flow in the elderly and young adults (co-PI).

2017-19      Gabriella Imi: Characterising cerebral haemodynamic oscillations during running (co-PI).

2017-19      Hannah Caldwell: Influence of core body temperature on cerebral blood flow during exercise. Member of Supervisory Committee, University of British Columbia – Okanagan, Canada.

University of Otago, NZ

2013-18     Matthew Shallcrass (part time): The role of brain blood flow in thermoregulatory and respiratory control during exercise (co-PI).

2011-13      Monique Francois: Exercise Snacking before meals as a novel approach to glycaemic control in pre diabetes (co-supervisor).

2010-11      Hayley Guiney: Aerobic fitness, physical activity, and brain function in healthy young adults (co-supervisor).

2009-11      Matthew Graham: Blood pressure and plasma volume responses during recovery: Effect of exercise intensity and exercise limb (co-supervisor).

See publications section below for published work related to these projects


Dr Lucas is an integrative physiologist whose primary research focus is on the integrative mechanisms that regulate human cerebral blood flow in health and disease. He has a specific interest in how cerebral blood flow is regulated with ageing and during stress (esp. high altitude, thermal, orthostatic, exercise and cognitive) and how this impacts on function (e.g., neurophysiological and psychological/behavioural responses).

Dr Lucas has 20 years of research experience and has developed a broad range of research skills and expertise, which underpins his inter- and multidisciplinary approach to research. To date, Dr Lucas has published 123 peer-reviewed publications, 3 book chapters and 188 conference abstracts. His published work is in leading journals within the field, including papers that have been widely cited (e.g., 11 publications with >100 citations (3 with >300) and 14 more with >50 citations). Dr Lucas has received awards for work presented at national and international conferences, and has been awarded early career awards in the UK and New Zealand. Graduate students working with him have also won such awards, as well as research grant awards (e.g., Claire Burley: CANTAB Research Grant).

As Principal or co-Investigator, Dr Lucas has been awarded >£2 million worth of research funding across a range of sources, including research councils, charities, and sporting, government and commercial bodies. Dr Lucas is principal investigator within the Centre of Human Brain Health (CHBH) at the University and serves on its management committee, and is the director of the Environmental Chamber Facility located within SportExR.

Since arriving at UoB, Dr Lucas has established inter- and multidisciplinary collaborations with clinicians, optical bioengineers/computer scientists, MR physicists/researchers and other physiologists that have resulted in a series of studies and publications that include development and testing of new neuroimaging technology, validation and comparison of different neuroimaging methodologies and analysis approaches, as well as examining brain vascular responses to novel exercise, cognitive and environmental stress. Current projects in the Lucas laboratory are focused on:

  • Investigating age- and disease-related changes to the regulation of brain perfusion and the functional consequences;
  • Multimodal assessment of brain health;
  • Exercise strategies and complementary approaches (e.g., environmental stress, nutrition) that optimise health (esp. brain health).
In addition to this primary research focus, Dr Lucas is involved in numerous projects investigating various aspects of health and performance. He collaborates widely with colleagues in the School, across campus and has a number of long-standing, successful national and international collaborations.

Other activities

Professional distinctions and memberships:

2019 - Member of Local Organizing and Programme Committees for fNIRS Society UK conference, 26-27th September, 2019, University of Birmingham, UK

2014 - The UK Physiological Society’s Early Career Award

2014 - Organiser of British Science Festival event (titled: Too much stress, not enough exercise: The curse of modern living).

2013 - Co-Principal organiser of XV International Conference of Environmental Ergonomics (Queenstown, 11-15th Feb 2013). First time held in southern hemisphere.

2011 - Winner of Fellow Award at the 17th International Hypoxia Symposia

2010 - The UK Physiological Society’s International Junior Research Grant

2009 - Awarded New Zealand National Heart Foundation 3-year Research Fellowship

2006 - Sport and Exercise Science New Zealand Best Emerging Scientist Award

Member of The UK Physiological Society, European College of Sport Science, Society for functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy, Birmingham Medical Research Expeditionary Society (BMRES), and the Cerebral Autoregulation Network (CARNet)

Invited speaker and keynote presentations

  • Invited Keynote speaker to the 10th international meeting of the Cerebral Autoregulation Research Network.Cerebrovascular CO2 Reactivity: Considerations for within and between imaging modality approaches.” 22nd April, 2021
  • Keynote speaker for seminar that was part of Cerebral Blood Flow Virtual Seminar Series. Cerebral Vascular Reactivity… What are we measuring?” 8th April, 2021. Video can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVcZmx1pOZk
  • Keynote speaker and chair for seminar that was part of Cerebral Blood Flow Virtual Seminar Series. Exercise and cerebral blood flow: Optimising the stimulus for brain vascular adaptation”. The four student talks delivered within this seminar were all PGRs I supervise. 5th August, 2020. Video can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YadHK4iv8A4
  • Invited speaker for Life Sciences in Six event, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham.How can we optimise exercise to improve brain health?” 27th November 2017.
  • Invited speaker for College Birmingham Professional Team event, University of Birmingham. Train the vessel, gain the brain: Targeted intervention to improve brain health”. Birmingham, UK. 21st June 2017
  • Invited speaker for Life Sciences event, University of Birmingham.How can we use exercise to optimise brain health?”  Birmingham, UK. 22nd November 2016. Video can be viewed at: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/life-sciences/life-sciences-in-six/lucas.aspx.
  • Invited speaker, 2015 UK Physiology Society annual meeting. “Optimising exercise strategies for the brain”. Cardiff, UK. 8th July 2015
  • Invited speaker, Beckman Institute, University of Illinois. “Optimising Brain Perfusion and Function: Targeted intervention to improve brain health”.University of Illinois, USA. 29th May, 2015.
  • Invited speaker, Liverpool John Moores University Research Seminar. “Optimising Brain Perfusion and Function: Targeted intervention to improve brain health”. Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool. 2nd March 2015
  • Invited speaker, Multimodal Human Brain Imaging Workshop: Techniques and Applications.Studying brain physiology (TCD & NIRS)”. University of Birmingham, 8th September 2014
  • Invited speaker, Sir Peter Mansfield Magnetic Resonance Centre Research Seminar, University of Nottingham. “Optimising Brain Perfusion and Function: Targeted intervention to improve brain health”. University of Nottingham, Nottingham. 20th March 2014
  • Invited speaker, Centre for Cardiovascular & Respiratory Sciences Seminar series, Medical School, University of Birmingham. “Optimising Brain Perfusion and Function: Targeted intervention to improve brain health”.
  • Speaker for University of Birmingham, Medical School’s BetheChange symposium: Exercise and Medicine: The Science Behind the Headlines. “Train the vessel, gain the brain: Exercise for brain health”. University of Birmingham, Birmingham. 13th November 2013.
  • Invited speaker, Birmingham Medical Research Expeditionary Society (BMRES) Altitude Research Conference. “Sleep and brain blood flow”. Birmingham. 5th November 2013.
  • Invited speaker, 15th International Conference on Environmental Ergonomics. “Environmental stress and the brain: An overview”. Queenstown, New Zealand. 12th February 2013.
  • Invited speaker, The Kidney in Health and Disease Research Theme research meeting. “2012 Research Expedition to Everest basecamp: Extracting the urine at 5000 m”. Dunedin Medical School, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. 5th December 2012
  • Invited speaker, School of Physical Education Research Day. “Exercising your Brain: Physical Activity and Brain Blood Flow”. University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
  • Invited speaker, University Club. “A Research trip to the Himalayas”, Dunedin, New Zealand.
  • Invited speaker, Wellington Medical School Research forum. “A Paradigm Shift for Cerebral Autoregulation”. University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand.

University Service

Current roles:

Director of the University of Birmingham Environmental Chamber facility (2013 – present)

Member of Centre for Human Brain Health management committee (NIRS modality lead; 2018 – present)

Deputy Lead for Exercise and Health Theme (2019 – present)

Member of School’s Ethics Committee (Exercise and Health theme lead; 2019 – present)  

Member of School’s Return to Research Task and Finish Group (June 2020 – present)

Member of School’s Health and Safety Committee (September 2020 – present)

Previous roles:

Member (Communications Officer: 2015 - 2016) and SportExR representative on the Birmingham University Imaging Centre (BUIC) management committee (2014 – 2018)

Member of Admissions team for School of Sport, Exercise & Rehabilitation Sciences (2013-2019)

Member (Deputy Lead: 2016 – 2019) of Athena Swan committee, School of Sport, Exercise & Rehabilitation Sciences (2014-2019; tenure included successful Bronze and Silver award applications)

Welfare tutor for School of Sport, Exercise & Rehabilitation Sciences (2014-2016)


Recent publications


Weaver, S, Skinner, B, Furlong, R, Lucas, B, Cable, N, Rendeiro, C, McGettrick, H & Lucas, S 2021, 'Cerebral Hemodynamic and Neurotrophic Factor Responses Are Dependent on the Type of Exercise', Frontiers in Physiology, vol. 11, 609935. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2020.609935

Burley, C, Francis, S, Thomas, KN, Whittaker, A, Lucas, S & Mullinger, K 2021, 'Contrasting measures of cerebrovascular reactivity between MRI and Doppler: a cross-sectional study of younger and older healthy individuals', Frontiers in Physiology, vol. 12, 656746. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2021.656746

Weaver, SR, Skinner, BD, Furlong, R, Lucas, RAI, Cable, NT, Rendeiro, C, McGettrick, HM & Lucas, SJE 2021, 'Corrigendum: Cerebral Hemodynamic and Neurotrophic Factor Responses Are Dependent on the Type of Exercise', Frontiers in Physiology, vol. 12, 659873. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2021.659873

Lucas, SJE, Malein, WL, Thomas, OD, Ashdown, KM, Rue, CA, Joyce, KE, Newman, C, Cadigan, P, Johnson, B, Myers, SD, Myers, FA, Wright, AD, Delamere, J, Imray, CHE, Bradwell, AR & Edsell, M 2021, 'Effect of losartan on performance and physiological responses to exercise at high altitude (5035 m)', BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, vol. 7, no. 1, e000982. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjsem-2020-000982

Shoemaker, L, Wilson, L, Lucas, S, Machado, L, Walker, R & Cotter, JD 2021, 'Indomethacin markedly blunts cerebral perfusion and reactivity, with little cognitive consequence in healthy young and older adults', The Journal of Physiology, vol. 599, no. 4. https://doi.org/10.1113/JP280118

Burley, C, Francis, S, Whittaker, A, Mullinger, K & Lucas, S 2021, 'Measuring resting cerebral haemodynamics using MRI arterial spin labelling and transcranial Doppler ultrasound: comparison in younger and older adults', Brain and Behavior, pp. 1-63. <https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/21579032>

Perry, BG & Lucas, S 2021, 'The acute cardiorespiratory and cerebrovascular response to resistance exercise', Sports Medicine - Open.

Voss, S, Al-Hamad, K, Samsam, W, Cherif, A, Georgakopoulos, C, Al Maadheed, M, Balanos, G, Lucas, S, Sottas, P-E, Wilson, M & Townsend, N 2020, 'A novel mixed living high training low intervention and the hematological module of the athlete biological passport', Drug Testing and Analysis, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 323-330. https://doi.org/10.1002/dta.2723

Joyce, KE, Lucas, SJE & Bradwell, AR 2020, 'Acetazolamide can impair exercise performance; it depends upon the cohort studied', Journal of Applied Physiology, vol. 128, no. 5, pp. 1457. https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00173.2020

Shoemaker, LN, Wilson, LC, Lucas, SJE, Machado, L & Cotter, JD 2020, 'Acute exercise-related cognitive effects are not attributable to changes in end-tidal CO2 or cerebral blood velocity', European Journal of Applied Physiology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-020-04393-7

Dallaway, N, Lucas, S & Ring, C 2020, 'Concurrent brain endurance training improves endurance exercise performance', Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2020.10.008

Gratton, G, Weaver, S, Burley, C, Low, K, Maclin, E, Johns, P, Pham, Q, Lucas, S, Fabiani, M & Rendeiro, C 2020, 'Dietary flavanols improve cerebral cortical oxygenation and cognition in healthy adults', Scientific Reports, vol. 10, 19409. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-76160-9

Caldwell, H, Coombs, G, Howe, C, Hoiland, RL, Patrician, A, Lucas, S & Ainslie, PN 2020, 'Evidence for temperature-mediated regional increases in cerebral blood flow during exercise', The Journal of Physiology. https://doi.org/10.1113/JP278827

Furlong, RJ, Weaver, SR, Sutherland, R, Burley, CV, Imi, GM, Lucas, RAI & Lucas, SJE 2020, 'ExerciseÔÇÉinduced elevations in cerebral blood velocity are greater in running compared to cycling at higher intensities', Physiological reports, vol. 8, no. 15, e14539. https://doi.org/10.14814/phy2.14539

Other contribution

Price, BS, Lucas, SJE, Gifford, RE, Cable, NT & Lucas, RAI 2020, Does Heat Thermotherapy Improve Cardiovascular and Cardiometabolic Health? A Systematic Review and Narrative Synthesis of the Literature.. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.05.19.20106666

View all publications in research portal