Faculty: Walter Swardfager, PhD

Walter Swardfager, PhDWalter Swardfager, PhD
Assistant Professor

General Research Area: Determinants of Cognitive Resilience and Vulnerability.

Dr. Swardfager’s research focuses on symptoms of depression and cognitive dysfunction, particularly in later life. On-going studies explore the neuroimmunological intersection between psychiatric and metabolic diseases as an avenue to discover biomarkers, elucidate vulnerability factors and implicate new treatments. Inflammatory mechanisms by which cardiopulmonary fitness and exercise interventions counteract neurodegenerative processes are of particular interest.

Disease areas of focus include depression, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke, which often occur together with disastrous consequences. Techniques used include genomics, neuroimaging, serum biomarkers, and neuropsychiatric assessments. The lab also uses public health records to examine the impact of comorbid conditions (e.g. depression and diabetes) on long-term health outcomes in those with chronic diseases.

Current studies include:

  • improving effectiveness of exercise interventions for people with Type 2 diabetes
  • understanding genetic vulnerability to cerebral white matter disease in normal aging and neurodegenerative disorders
  • using metabolic changes in depressive episodes as biomarkers to implicate new avenues for treatment
  • mitigating the impact of diabetes and depression on functional and cognitive recovery from stroke


Selected Publications:

Darwish L, Nguyen MM, Saleem M, Eakin KA, Herrmann N, Sugamori KS, Oh PI, Yang P, Mitchell J, Lanctôt KL, Swardfager W. Lower serum osteocalcin concentrations in patients with type 2 diabetes and relationships with vascular risk factors among patients with coronary artery disease. Journal of diabetes and its complications. 2019; 33(5):390-397. PMID: 30799280

Yu D, Hennebelle M, Sahlas DJ, Ramirez J, Gao F, Masellis M, Cogo-Moreira H, Swartz RH, Herrmann N, Chan PC, Pettersen JA, Stuss DT, Black SE, Taha AY, Swardfager W. Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase-Derived Linoleic Acid Oxylipins in Serum Are Associated with Periventricular White Matter Hyperintensities and Vascular Cognitive Impairment. Translational stroke research. 2018; PMID: 30443886

Darwish L, Beroncal E, Sison MV, Swardfager W. Depression in people with type 2 diabetes: current perspectives. Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity: targets and therapy. 2018; 11:333-343. PMID: 30022843, PMCID: PMC6044353

Swardfager W, Cogo-Moreira H, Masellis M, Ramirez J, Herrmann N, Edwards JD, Saleem M, Chan P, Yu D, Nestor SM, Scott CJM, Holmes MF, Sahlas DJ, Kiss A, Oh PI, Strother SC, Gao F, Stefanovic B, Keith J, Symons S, Swartz RH, Lanctôt KL, Stuss DT, Black SE. The effect of white matter hyperintensities on verbal memory: Mediation by temporal lobe atrophy. Neurology. 2018; 90(8):e673-e682. PMID: 29374101, PMCID: PMC5818160

Swardfager W, Yu D, Scola G, Cogo-Moreira H, Chan P, Zou Y, Herrmann N, Lanctôt KL, Ramirez J, Gao F, Masellis M, Swartz RH, Sahlas DJ, Chan PC, Ojeda-Lopez C, Milan-Tomas A, Pettersen JA, Andreazza AC, Black SE. Peripheral lipid oxidative stress markers are related to vascular risk factors and subcortical small vessel disease. Neurobiology of aging. 2017; 59:91-97. PMID: 28756941

Hennebelle M, Otoki Y, Yang J, Hammock BD, Levitt AJ, Taha AY, Swardfager W. Altered soluble epoxide hydrolase-derived oxylipins in patients with seasonal major depression: An exploratory study. Psychiatry research. 2017; 252:94-101. NIHMSID: NIHMS906376, PMID: 28259037, PMCID: PMC5611448

Carter J, Cogo-Moreira H, Herrmann N, Merino D, Yang P, Shah BR, Kiss A, Reitav J, Oh PI, Swardfager W. Validity of the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale in Type 2 diabetes. Journal of psychosomatic research. 2016;
90:91-97. PMID: 27772565

Carter J, Swardfager W. Mood and metabolism: Anhedonia as a clinical target in Type 2 diabetes. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2016; 69:123-32. PMID: 27088371

Swardfager W, Herrmann N, Mazereeuw G, Goldberger K, Harimoto T, Lanctôt KL. Zinc in depression; a meta-analysis. Biol Psychiatry 2013; 74(12):872-878.

Swardfager W, Black SE. Dementia: A link between microbial infections and cognition? Nat Rev Neurol 2013; 9(6):301-302.

Swardfager W, Lanctôt KL, Rothenburg L, Wong A, Cappell J, Herrmann N. Cytokines in Alzheimer’s disease, a meta-analysis. Biol Psychiatry 2010; 68(10):930-941.

Swardfager W, Herrmann N, Dowlati Y, Oh P, Kiss A, Walker S, Lanctôt KL. Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase activation and depressive symptoms in patients with coronary artery disease. Psychoneuroendocrinology 2009; 34(10):1560-1566.


Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology
Faculty of Medicine 
Location: Sunnybrook Research Institute
2075 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario  M4N 3M5
Phone: 416-480-6100 ext. 85409
FAX: 416-480-6022
Email: w.swardfager@utoronto.ca