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 Catherine L. Davis, MS, PhD

Professor of Medicine, Physiology & Graduate Studies, Augusta University
Adjunct Professor of Psychology & Kinesiology, University of Georgia

Contact Information  


Dr. Davis is a clinical health psychologist whose research focuses on health promotion and disease prevention in children, with regard to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular risk, cognition and academic achievement, using randomized controlled trials.

Postdoctoral Fellowship
University of Miami, Coral Gables, 1999
Behavioral Medicine and Advanced Statistics 

University of Miami, Coral Gables, 1997
Clinical Health Psychology 

Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, PA, 1997
Clinical Psychology

University of Miami, Coral Gables, 1995
Clinical Health Psychology 
Maytag Fellowship, 1992-1995

Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 1990
Psychology, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa 

Dr. Davis has designed and conducted randomized clinical trials to spur evidence-based public health recommendations and programs to improve children's health during a childhood obesity epidemic.  

Randomized Clinical Disease Prevention Trials in Children 

As contact Principal Investigator, Dr. Davis has conducted 2 major randomized clinical trials of behavioral interventions in children at risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease due to their overweight or obese status. The first of these, published in JAMA in 2012, was a rigorous study comparing 3 months of a no-intervention control condition to a low- (20 min/day) vs high-volume (40 min/day) dose of monitored aerobic exercise. Either exercise dose yielded similar benefits on insulin resistance and aerobic fitness, while the high-volume dose elicited greater reductions in body fat and visceral fat. The study adhered strictly to CONSORT guidelines, included detailed adherence measures (daily heart rates in the exercise groups), and provided needed, rare, causal dose-response data on children’s responses to a given dose of exercise. This study was influential for the Georgia program, “Power Up for 30” to encourage elementary schools to add 30 minutes of physical activity to the school day (enough to expend a similar amount of energy as 20 min supervised exercise). A second trial was initially focused on cognitive and brain outcomes, with a competitive supplement to add arterial stiffness and other cardiometabolic outcomes (this paper is currently being revised for resubmission), and a diversity supplement to support Dr. Norman Pollock in examining osteocalcin as a potential bone-derived influence on cardiometabolic risk in the children, given his interest in bone biology and metabolism. Dr. Davis designed both these trials, assembled the scientific teams, oversaw human subjects protections, recruitment, testing, and intervention, supervised statistical analyses of the data, and handled all administrative duties (e.g., budget, NIH reporting).

Randomized Clinical Exercise-Cognition Trials in Children

While there is a common belief that exercise confers brain, cognitive, and academic achievement benefits to children, the evidence – principally, cross-sectional comparisons of highly fit vs less-fit children -- is not nearly as strong as the claims made about it. As contact Principal Investigator, Dr. Davis conducted arguably the two most rigorous randomized controlled trials of exercise treatment on cognition in children. The first of these was ancillary to the dose-response trial mentioned below, and yielded strong, causal dose-response evidence that a greater volume of aerobic training resulted in greater benefits on cognition and math achievement. The second (with neuroscientist and MPI Dr. McDowell) provided clear evidence of benefit from exercise per se, apart from other program elements such as adult attention, on children’s brain structure (white matter integrity, e.g., myelination). This moved the science forward significantly by implementing an active, attention-control comparison condition rather than a no-intervention control, and utilizing highly sophisticated measures of brain health. Dr. Davis designed both these trials, assembled the scientific teams, directed recruitment, testing, intervention, statistical analyses, manuscripts, and handled administrative duties (e.g., budget, NIH reporting).

At the request of Georgia Dept. of Public Health, Dr. Davis produced a video to enhance dissemination of the results to a wider lay audience to encourage more physical activity for schoolchildren.

Insulin Resistance

Dr. Davis published a study focused on insulin resistance measured using the gold standard euglycemic clamp method in women with a history of gestational diabetes, showing it to be the key element of metabolic syndrome conferring coronary risk in these women. She assisted with data collection and conducted all analyses from which she wrote a highly cited paper.  In this paper Dr. Davis developed the insulin sensitivity index, conducted the  statistical analyses and presented a validation of a simpler measure of insulin resistance (ISI(0,120)) using oral glucose tolerance test data in adults with and without type 2 diabetes.  This method was demonstrated to be the best predictor of diabetes incidence over 5-8 years in combined longitudinal data from the Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study, the Mexico City Diabetes Study, and the San Antonio Heart Study (Hanley et al. Diabetes. 2003 Feb;52(2):463-9). 


 Lab Team

Lab Team
Pictured Left to Right: Dr. Norman Pollock, Dr. Catherine (Katie) Davis, Ms. Celestine Williams, Mr. Jacob Looney

Strong & Ready: Harnessing Quality Rated to Improve Child Health and School Readiness

Augusta University Institute of Public and Preventive Health, Healthy Augusta Community Academic Partnership grant (Davis & Web, Co-PI)  
August 2014 through July 2015

Role: Principal Investigator

This study, in partnership with Georgia Bright from the Start (Dept. of Early Care and Learning) and other community partners, examines measures of early childhood education quality to identify those aspects that are most influential to child health and school readiness. This will help focus quality improvement efforts to improve outcomes in Georgia children.

Play Rx Pilot Study

Augusta University Research Institute, Extramural Success Award
March 2015 through February 2016

Role: Principal Investigator

Pilot study of exercise vs waitlist control condition on symptoms and cognition in children with ADHD.

Identification of Common Genes Related to Depression and Inflammation.

American Heart Association (National) Scientist Development Grant.
July 2009 through June 2013 
Role: Principal Investigator

Exercise and overweight children's cognition.

NIH-NHLBI R01 HL 87923-02S1
June 2010 through July 2013
Role: Principal Investigator 

This competitive revision adds measures of arterial stiffness and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease to the ongoing clinical trial of exercise.

Exercise and overweight children's cognition.

NIH-NHLBI R01 HL 87923-03S1
September 2010 through July 2013
Role: Principal Investigator
This Investigator Research Supplement adds Dr. Norman Pollock's work on osteocalcin to the study of arterial stiffness and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in the ongoing clinical trial of exercise.

Exercise and overweight children's cognition.

NIH-NHLBI R01 HL 87923-04 (Davis, McDowell, Tomporowski, Multi-PI)
September 2008 through July 2013
Role: Co-Investigator
The study is a clinical trial of an after school exercise program vs. attention control (non-exercise after school program) to determine effects on cognition and brain function in overweight 8-11 yr olds.

Epigenetic basis of obesity induced cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes

NIH-NHLBI R01 HL105689 (Wang, PI)
January 2011 through December 2015  

Role: Co-Investigator
This study assesses the role of DNA methylation in obesity-related disease, and the effects of exercise on methylation status. 

Efficacy of exercise as a tool in the maintenance and treatment of disruptive behavior disorders: A feasibility study.

NIH-NIMH R36 MH093152-01A1 Bustamante (PI) 8/2011-7/31/13
Role: Consultant
University of Illinois at Chicago, mentor David X. Marquez. 
Dissertation Research Grant to Increase Diversity

Executive function in children with attention deficit disorder.

MCG Child Health Discovery Institute Advanced Pilot Award (Davis & Maria, Multi-PIs)
July 2010 through June 2013
Role: Co-Investigator
NCE Examines executive function and brain activation and relates it to physical activity, fitness, and fatness.

“Exercise and overweight children's cognition”

NIH-NHLBI 3R01HL087923-03S2 (Davis, McDowell, & Tomporowski, Mutli-PI)
September 2010 through August 2012
Role: Co-Investigator 

This ARRA OppNet grant added measures of brain myelination, connectivity, and structure to a behavioral clinical trial of aerobic exercise to determine effects of aerobic exercise.

“A model exercise intervention for overweight children”

University System of Georgia (Tomporowski, PI)
July 2010 through June 2012

USG Childhood Obesity Research Competition  
This is preparatory translational work.

“MCG-VAMC Consortium Psychology Workforce Development”

HRSA Graduate Psychology Edu Programs D40HP00012 (Mabe, PI)
August 2010 through July 2013

Role: Research Mentor 2011-12
Supports Psychology residency program.

“Exercise effects on bone-metabolic axis.”

MCG Child Health Discovery Institute Advanced Pilot Award Wenger, Misra (PIs) 7/10 � 6/30/12
Role: Co-Investigator

Exercise and osteocalcin effects on metabolism and fatty liver disease; cell, rat, and human studies.

“Obesity Related CV Risk in Youth”

Programmatic Funding Development Award (Harshfield, PI)
April 2009 through August 2010

Medical College of Georgia, Diabetes and Obesity Discovery Institute
Subproject: Exercise effects on liver fat and arterial stiffness in overweight children.

Role: Principal Investigator of subproject

“Treatment and weight concerns in type 1 diabetes (TaWC).”

American Diabetes Association Clinical Research Award (Young-Hyman, PI)
July 2008 through June 2011 

Role: Co-investigator
Tests type 1 diabetes treatment effects on risk of weight concerns/eating disorders in adolescents.

“A Synergy Award for Team Development in Diabetes and Obesity”

GHSU Diabetes & Obesity Discovery Institute Synergy Award (Tingen, PI)
July 2011 through June 2012  

Role: Co-investigator 
This project aims to develop a synergistic team of scientists to identify novel prevention strategies to address the childhood obesity epidemic. Additionally, pilot testing of the novel strategies will occur. 

Member, Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research

Distinguished Faculty Award, Clinical Science Research, Medical College of Georgia, School of Medicine Faculty Senate

Fellow, NAASO/The Obesity Society

Outstanding Young Clinical Faculty Award, Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine Faculty Senate

Elected to Society for Pediatric Research

1995, 1997
Award for Academic Excellence, U. Miami Graduate School

1992 - 1995
University of Miami Maytag Fellowship

1993, 1994, 1995
Commendations, U. Miami Dept. of Psychology

Phi Beta Kappa, Magna cum laude, and Rufus Choate Scholar (First Honor Group), Dartmouth College

Benjamin J. Benner '69 Research Support Fellowship, Dartmouth College

Pub Med *denotes Senior or corresponding Author

Davis CL*, Tingen MS, Jia J, Sherman F, Williams CF, Bhavsar K, Wood N, Kobleur J, Waller JL. Passive smoke exposure and its effects on cognition, sleep, and health outcomes in overweight and obese children. In press, Childhood Obesity, Oct. 2015. PMC – In process.

Schwarz NF, Krafft CE, Chi L, Weinberger AL, Schaeffer DJ, Pierce JE, Rodrigue AL, DiBattisto CH, Maria BL, Davis CL*, McDowell JE*. Antisaccade-Related Brain Activation in Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder – A Pilot Study. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 30 Nov. 2015: 234 (2); 272–279. doi:10.1016/j.pscychresns.2015.10.003, NIHMS 730267.

Davis CL*, Tkacz JP, Tomporowski PD, Bustamante EE. Independent associations of physical activity and weight status with children's cognitive functioning. In press, Pediatric Exercise Science, 2015; 27(4). Epub ahead of print 2015 Aug 6. NIHMS 73490

Ruble K, Scarvalone S, Gallicchio L, Davis CL, Wells D. Group Physical Activity Intervention for Childhood Cancer Survivors: Pilot and Feasibility. In press, Journal of Physical Activity and Health, July 2015.

Ruble K, Davis CL, Han HR. Endothelial Health in Childhood Acute Lymphoid Leukemia Survivors: Pilot Evaluation With Peripheral Artery Tonometry. Journal of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, 2015 Mar;37(2):117-20. doi: 10.1097/MPH.0000000000000122.

Bustamante EE, Davis CL, Marquez DX. A test of Learned Industriousness in the physical activity domain. International Journal of Psychological Studies, 2014; 6(4): 12-25. DOI: 10.5539/ijps.v6n4p12, PMC4456027,

Labayen I, Ruiz JR, Ortega FB, Davis CL, Rodríguez G, González-Gross M, Breidenassel C, Dallongeville J, Marcos A, Widhalm K, Kafatos A, Molnar D, DeHenauw S, Gottrand F, Moreno LA. Liver enzymes and clustering cardiometabolic risk factors in European adolescents; The HELENA study. Pediatric Obesity, 2015 Oct;10(5):361-70. doi: 10.1111/ijpo.273. Epub ahead of print, 2014 Dec 17.

Buscemi, J., Kong, A., Fitzgibbon, M.L., Bustamante, E.E., Davis, C.L., Pate, R.R., & Wilson, D.K. (August 2014, in press). Society of Behavioral Medicine Position Statement: School-based physical activity improves academic achievement. Translational Behavioral Medicine. Online first,

Schaeffer DJ, Krafft CE, Schwarz NF, Chi L, Rodrigue AL, Pierce JE, Allison JD, Yanasak NE, Liu T, Davis CL,* McDowell JE*. The Relationship between Uncinate Fasciculus White Matter Integrity and Verbal Memory Proficiency in Children. Neuroreport. 2014 August 20; 25(12): 921–925. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0000000000000204. PMC4107309.

Schaeffer DJ, Krafft CE, Schwarz NF, Chi L, Rodrigue AL, Pierce JE, Allison JD, Yanasak NE, Liu T, Davis CL,* McDowell JE*. An 8-month exercise intervention alters uncinate fasciculus white matter integrity in overweight children. Psychophysiology. 2014 August; 51(8): 728–733. Published online 2014 May 5. doi: 10.1111/psyp.12227. PMC4107135.

Erion JR, Wosiski-Kuhn M, Dey A, Hao S, Davis CL, Pollock NK, Stranahan A. Obesity elicits interleukin 1-mediated deficits in hippocampal synaptic plasticity. Journal of Neuroscience, 2014 Feb 12;34(7):2618-31. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4200-13.2014. PMC3995346.

Ruble K, Davis CL, Han HR. Endothelial Health in Childhood Acute Lymphoid Leukemia Survivors: Pilot Evaluation With Peripheral Artery Tonometry. Journal of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, Online first, 2014 Feb 26. PMC4145053.

Krafft CE, Schaeffer DJ, Schwarz NF, Chi L, Weinberger AL, Pierce JE, Rodrigue AL, Allison JD, Yanasak NE, Liu T, Davis CL,* McDowell JE*. Improved Fronto-Parietal White Matter Integrity is Associated with Attendance in an After-School Exercise Program. Developmental Neuroscience, April 2014;36(1):1-9. Superior longitudinal fasciculus image was featured on the cover of the journal. PMC3995327.

Krafft CE, Pierce JE, Schwarz NF, Chi L, Weinberger AL, Schaeffer DJ, Rodrigue AL, Camchong J, Allison JD, Yanasak NE, Liu T, Davis CL*, McDowell JE.* An eight month exercise intervention alters resting state synchrony in overweight children. Neuroscience. 2014 Jan 3;256:445-55. Epub 2013 Oct 3. PMC3995346. PMC4107309.

Krafft CE, Schwarz NF, Chi L, Weinberger AL, Schaeffer DJ, Pierce JE, Rodrigue AL, Yanasak NE, Miller PH, Tomporowski PD, Davis CL,* McDowell JE*. An 8-month exercise intervention alters brain activation in overweight children. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014 Jan;22(1):232-42. doi: 10.1002/oby.20518. Epub 2013 Sep 10. PMC4077546.

 Davis CL,* Pollock NK, Waller JL, Allison JD, Dennis BA, Bassali R, Meléndez A, Boyle CA, Gower BA. Exercise dose and diabetes risk in overweight and obese children: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2012 Sep 19;308(11):1103-12. PMID: 22990269; PMCID: PMC3487697. Featured on the cover and at special session of The Obesity Society.

Pollock NK, Bernard PJ, Gutin B, Davis CL, Zhu H, Dong Y. (2011) Adolescent obesity, bone mass and cardiometabolic risk factors. Featured article, J Pediatr,158(5):727-734. Subject of editorial: Kallkwarf HJ, 158(5):698-700. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2010.11.052. PMC3383822

Pollock NK, Bernard PJ, Gower BA, Gundberg CM, Wenger K, Misra S, Bassali R, Davis CL.* Lower uncarboxylated osteocalcin concentrations in children with prediabetes is associated with beta-cell function. J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 2011 July;96:E1092-E1099. PMC3135188.

Davis CL,* Tomporowski PD, McDowell JE, Austin BP, Miller PH, Yanasak NE, Allison JD, Naglieri JA. (2011). Exercise improves executive function and achievement and alters brain activation in overweight children: A randomized controlled trial. Health Psychology, 2011 Jan;30(1):91-8. PMC3057917.

Pollock NK, Bernard PJ, Wenger K, Misra S, Gower BA, Zhu H, Allison JD, Davis CL.* (2010). Lower bone mass in prepubertal overweight children with pre-diabetes. J Bone Mineral Res, 2010:25(12):2484-2493. PMC3122138

Petty K, Davis CL*, Tkacz J, Young-Hyman D, Waller JL. (Oct. 2009). Exercise effects on depressive symptoms and self-worth in overweight children: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 34(9), 929-39. Epub 2009 Feb 16.

Tkacz J, Davis CL*, Young-Hyman D, Boyle CA. (Nov. 2008). Aerobic exercise training reduces overt anger expression among overweight children. Pediatric Exercise Science, 2008, 20 (4), 390�401, PMC2678873.

Davis CL*, Tomporowski PD, Boyle CA, Waller J L, Miller PH, Naglieri JA, Gregoski M. (Dec. 2007) Effects of aerobic exercise on overweight children's cognitive functioning: A randomized controlled trial. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 78, 510-9. PMC2662758.

Gutt M, Davis CL, Spitzer SB, Llabre MM, Kumar M, Czarnecki EM, Schneiderman N, Skyler JS, Marks JB. Validation of the insulin sensitivity index (ISI(0,120)): comparison with other measures. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2000 Mar;47(3):177-84. PubMed PMID: 10741566.

Davis CL, Gutt M, Llabre MM, Marks JB, O'Sullivan MJ, Potter JE, Landel JL, Kumar M, Schneiderman N, Gellman M, Skyler JS. History of gestational diabetes, insulin resistance and coronary risk. J Diabetes Complications. 1999 Jul-Aug;13(4):216-23. PubMed PMID: 10616862.


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