Dr. Art Kramer and the Wild Tales of a Fighter

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Dr. Art Kramer is a fascinating person who has been a multidisciplinary champion since the start of his career. His work spans topics from neural plasticity and age-related processes (including the positive impact of aerobic exercise on aging),  to attention in the visual field, aircraft piloting, methods of neuroimaging, and much more and has required his involvement and collaboration with the fields of Psychology, Biology, Engineering, Human Factors, and lifespan development. He’s had an impressive career and, what is evident in speaking with him, is that much of his skill set is self-determined and self-made.

Here is Dr. Kramer introducing himself:

Dr. Kramer was very candid in his stories and the tales from his life. His dad never completed high school, but was a Light-Heavyweight boxer, a jazz drummer/musician, and later insurance trainer. Despite his lack of formal education, he developed a strong analytical skill and his dad became an adjunct professor at Hofstra University in the math department. That capacity for taking on multiple and divergent skill sets, for self-training clearly was instilled in Dr. Kramer at a young age. Sadly, his dad died while young Art was still a teenager and that required him to find strength and independence early.

This next story from Dr. Kramer gives a very strong sense of who he was and his life growing up. It is a wild tale of his family, his interests, and his FALSE arrest for a triple homicide!

So how did this young boxer find his way to Psychology? Dr. Kramer describes the development of his interests in this clip. Foreshadowing his multidisciplinary career, his path to Psychology came through a different field:

All of this just gives you a sense of Dr. Kramer at the beginning. He had rich descriptions of his experience finding graduate school, how he got his first faculty position, and the development of his research program. Noted above is a sample of the range of interests that Dr. Kramer and his colleagues have published on. While he is best known for investigations demonstrating neural growth, improved connectivity, and improved cognitive function for both children and older adults who regularly do aerobic exercise, his research program is very broad.

Several excellent papers from his career are listed below:

Colcombe, S., & Kramer, A. F. (2003). Fitness effects on the cognitive function of older adults: a meta-analytic studyPsychological Science14(2), 125-130.

Erickson, K. I., Prakash, R. S., Voss, M. W., Chaddock, L., Hu, L., Morris, K. S., … & Kramer, A. F. (2009). Aerobic fitness is associated with hippocampal volume in elderly humansHippocampus19(10), 1030-1039.

Kramer, A. F., & Donchin, E. (1987). Brain potentials as indices of orthographic and phonological interaction during word matchingJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition13(1), 76-86.

Kramer, A. F., Hahn, S., Cohen, N. J., Banich, M. T., McAuley, E., Harrison, C. R., … & Colcombe, A. (1999). Ageing, fitness and neurocognitive functionNature400(6743), 418-419.

Kramer, A. F., Hahn, S., & Gopher, D. (1999). Task coordination and aging: Explorations of executive control processes in the task switching paradigmActa Psychologica101(2-3), 339-378.

Kramer, A. F., Humphrey, D. G., Larish, J. F., & Logan, G. D. (1994). Aging and inhibition: beyond a unitary view of inhibitory processing in attentionPsychology and Aging9(4), 491-512.

Kramer, A. F., Sirevaag, E. J., & Braune, R. (1987). A psychophysiological assessment of operator workload during simulated flight missionsHuman Factors29(2), 145-160.

Kramer, A. F., & Strayer, D. L. (1988). Assessing the development of automatic processing: an application of dual-task and event-related brain potential methodologiesBiological Psychology26(1-3), 231-267.

Dr. Kramer used to box welterweight, as a smaller, muscular guy. As he described it, to win he had to get in close to his opponents and pummel their ribs, forcing them out of the fight.  He knew he didn’t have the reach of most of his opponents, and he wasn’t going to win by dancing around. He won as a brawler, going toe-to-toe, and forcing his opponents to submission.

He was a fighter then and, if you look at his career, the hundreds of publications working on key issues, there is a pattern. He often relied on converging operations  with neuroimaging, behavioral, and cognitive tasks developed in a multidisciplinary and collaborative  environment. His punishing style seems to have graced Psychology — pushing critical theoretical and practical issues to advancement.

(Photo of Dr. Arthur Kramer in his office at Northeastern University).


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