Assistant Professor of Health and Human Sciences Caio Sousa remembers his mother repeatedly telling him when he was younger to “try not to be stressed because it will give you gray hair.” Sousa says he realized later that she was trying to warn him that stress would make him age faster, a lesson that’s resonated with him over the years.
Currently, Sousa’s research is focused on how humans react physiologically to stress and the subsequent effects on aging. The questions Sousa is looking to answer include: How can we attenuate negative reactions to stress? What stresses people more or less, and what can we do about that? What can we learn from the varied reactions people have in stressful situations? “I’m looking at both sociodemographic and socioeconomic data in my research,” said Sousa. “I also want to uncover how all of this may contribute to creating health disparities among different groups in the U.S. and around the world.”
As a doctoral candidate in Brazil, his research focused on aging markers in prominent athletes, looking at how lifestyles of master athletes attenuate biological aging. During a one-year Ph.D. internship at the University of Miami, he researched the effectiveness of a community-based exercise program on depression symptoms among people living with HIV. He then worked at Northeastern University as a postdoctoral research associate in the Health Technology Lab exploring how active video games increase or change physical activity behavior in children.
Sousa joined the faculty of Loyola Marymount University in the summer of 2022. He was interested in working at LMU for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, in 2019, LMU was upgraded to the Doctoral University: High Research Activity category (R2) by the Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education. “I appreciate LMU’s balance in its commitment to both high-level research that seeks to aid society and a top-quality education for its students,” he said. Sousa also found working and living in California attractive as he views the state as one of the most progressive overall in the country.
In spring 2023, he is teaching a new course titled the “Physiology of Aging,” which explores how humans age and why the body ages biologically and physiologically. He hopes to offer students volunteer activities in the community such as visiting senior living communities to provide health evaluation and education on the importance of health markers and how to improve health as we age.
Sousa earned both doctorate and master’s degrees in physical education and exercise physiology at Catholic University of Brasilia in Brazil, and a doctorate in psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the University of Miami. He currently teaches exercise physiology, and human anatomy and physiology lab classes at LMU.
In his free time, Sousa likes to run and while he has not participated in triathlons for some time, he hopes to get back to competition when his infant daughter gets a bit older. He regularly practices mindfulness with a focus on the absence of distractions, and during the pandemic acquired a new appreciation for listening to music.