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Robert Cochrane, PhD
YAX CEO, Founder & Lone Nut

Dr. Robert Cochrane is a graduate of UNLV's Interdisciplinary Health Sciences program. He continues to test and research the effect of improvisation and storytelling on Parkinson’s disease. He has received grants from the Parkinson's Foundation and support from the Davis Phinney Foundation. He is a popular, unique and high energy Keynote speaker, bringing joy, optimism and practical tools for all people in the PD community to thrive today. 


He has a background in filmmaking, with the Artisan Entertainment release, The Playaz Court, and two Stephen King-based short films among his credits. His father, Dan, was diagnosed with PD in 2001, which shifted Robert’s artistic lens to health. He made his first documentary, the award-winning Boys of Summer in 2004. There are two follow up films in the series with the fourth film coming in 2023. 

He moved his family back to Walnut Creek, CA, and is a proud care partner for his amazing parents. He lives there with his beautiful wife, two teenagers, and a rambunctious puppy named Stella - though it’s usually pronounced “STELLAAAAA!”

Susan has loved life all of her 71+ years.  She is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, student and friend. In 2015, she discovered she is also a Person with Parkinson’s (PWP).  Much like everyone who hears the words “Parkinson’s Disease” and “you” in the same sentence, Susan was numb for a while.  YES, numb … AND she instantly found herself surrounded by the love and support of family and friends. Her lifetime smile returned, soothing the numbness.  Susan’s nephew, Adam, challenged and inspired her to exercise by attempting a nonstop, 65-mile swim. It was featured in the award-winning documentary, VICTORY SWIM. Susan shared her stories of what it means to thrive with Parkinson’s as keynote speaker at the University of Maryland’s Within Our Reach Symposium


Robert reached out to Susan after seeing VICTORY SWIM, sharing his hypothesis that improv could improve quality of life measures for PWP. She can confirm, YES, Robert was a Lone Nut with his ideas about improv… AND she became his official First Follower. She participates in every Day One class and YAX playshop available.  She serves as a Mentor in the Day One program, as the Co-host of the YouTube Daily Dose of Dope(-amine), the Festival Director for the Yes, And eXercise Festival in Texas (YAX F iT) and, generally, as an all-around Robin to Robert’s Batman. 


Susan lives in Austin, Texas with her husband of 50 years and their Golden Retriever.

Susan Scarlett
YAX First Follower, Mentor

Benjamin ‘B.J.’ Bement is a person with Parkinson’s. He was diagnosed at the age of 44 in 2013. He has been an active PD advocate for the past 10 years.  He is a member of the People with Parkinson’s Advisory Council for the Parkinson’s Foundation and also a member of the Gulf Coast Chapter board.  He is an Ambassador for the PMD Alliance. He was a part of the initial Superheroes Day One program and has been active in the weekly Jam for Joy sessions. He wants to begin in-person YAX sessions in the Baton Rouge area. He is co-founder and co-director of The Mission for Movement to bring Louisiana leaders together for PD Advocacy.

He has won the Parkinson’s Foundation Gulf Coast Volunteer of the Year in 2022, the Parkinson’s Foundation Community Service award in 2023, and the President’s Silver Volunteer Service award for 2023. 

Ben "BJ" Bement
Outreach & Program Development

Amy has had 40 years of experience working in the theatre and film industry. Her father, a Broadway producer and manager, moved the family from NYC to Marin County, California in 1978. Amy studied Theatre Arts at the College of Marin, then completed a Stage Management Internship with the renowned American Conservatory Theater. She is a Journeyman member of IATSE Local #16. Her resume includes work at Industrial Light & Magic, Disney, and San Francisco Opera. She specialized in Stage and Production Management and Pyrotechnics and served with the California State Fire Marshal and for Disney Studios as a Stunt and Special Effects Safety Officer. Her film credits include The Rocketeer, Terminator 2, Star Trek VI, Star Trek Generations, Hook, and Casper.


Amy is retired and lives in Marin County, CA with her family. She has volunteered for a variety of organizations including The Space Station Museum and Novato Space Festival where she was on the Board, and served as the Event and Exhibit Coordinator, Social Media Manager and Education Outreach Coordinator.  Currently Amy volunteers for the Rebel Legion Endor Base as an Event Coordinator.

Amy is a Person with Parkinson’s (PWP). Amy found YAX when she was looking for online support and therapy for PD patients. The Improv and Day One programs that YAX provides have been a lifeline for her. Amy shares her Day One writing and more on her website

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Amy Young
Day One Story Consultant
Let's Jam: Improv with Robert Cochrane

Let's Jam: Improv with Robert Cochrane

Our series of artists and educators connecting arts and humanities to medicine continues with UNLV Ph.D. candidate Robert Cochrane's talk on how improv can help Parkinson's patients. [4/2022] [Show ID: 37988] Please Note: Knowledge about health and medicine is constantly evolving. This information may become out of date. More from: Let's Jam: The Arts in Medicine ( Explore More Health & Medicine on UCTV ( UCTV features the latest in health and medicine from University of California medical schools. Find the information you need on cancer, transplantation, obesity, disease and much more. Explore More Humanities on UCTV ( The humanities encourage us to think creatively and explore questions about our world. UCTV explores human culture through literature, history, ethics, philosophy, cinema and religion so we can better understand the human experience. Explore More Arts & Music on UCTV ( Art can excite, provoke, calm and inspire us. UCTV showcases excellence in arts and music from classical, jazz, folk, opera and contemporary music to theater, poetry, media arts, dance and fine arts. UCTV is the broadcast and online media platform of the University of California, featuring programming from its ten campuses, three national labs and affiliated research institutions. UCTV explores a broad spectrum of subjects for a general audience, including science, health and medicine, public affairs, humanities, arts and music, business, education, and agriculture. Launched in January 2000, UCTV embraces the core missions of the University of California -- teaching, research, and public service – by providing quality, in-depth television far beyond the campus borders to inquisitive viewers around the world. (
Parkinson’s Improv: Fun Modality to Boost Your Brain Health

Parkinson’s Improv: Fun Modality to Boost Your Brain Health

Parkinson’s Improv: Fun Modality to Boost Your Brain Health Powerful People on April 5th at 2 PM CT. In this "Powerful People" interview, presented by Supernus Pharmaceuticals, PFP's Executive Director & Co-Founder Dr. Nina Mosier, and PFP's Lead Fitness Instructor, Lauren Lewis, sit down with Robert Cochrane, Ph.D. student at UNLV, to discuss how improv can stimulate the brain in an entirely new way and create new neural pathways. You are invited to join the conversation live on Youtube and participate in the live chat. Ask questions and share your comments for these three powerful people to address. Robert is a Ph.D. student at UNLV in the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences school studying the effect of improvisation on Parkinson’s disease. He has created two programs to improve quality of life measures for people with and affected by PD: Yes, And…exercise! and Day One: PD Superheroes. He has run clinical trials on both in 2021 and plans to publish results in 2022. He is also an award-winning filmmaker, including work on the Boys of Summer documentary series and two Stephen King-based short films. He lives in Walnut Creek, CA with his beautiful wife, two crazy kids, and an old, cranky Cockapoo. Try Yes, And…eXercise (YAX) is a new, fun way for people with PD, care partners, or those who serve the PD community to connect and play online. To sign up, please visit the website,, or email Robert at To become a member of the #1 Parkinson’s Fitness Channel on Youtube, memberships are available to gain access to discounts, unique PFP emojis, member surveys and other perks. Follow this link to join: LEARN MORE & FIND A CLASS: SUPPORT OUR CHANNEL: SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER: BROWSE OUR FREE PARKINSON’S HOME EXERCISE VIDEOS: BROWSE OUR FREE FULL-LENGTH PARKINSON’S EXERCISE VIDEOS:


Yes, And...eXercise! (YAX) was built off serendipity - as much in improv is. YAX Founder Robert Cochrane has performed improv for over 20 years. He began using it in the classroom about 10 years ago as a communication and team-building exercise. At the time, he wasn't aware of other practitioners, like those at ComedySportz (produced by CSz Worldwide), developing and training with what's known as Applied Improvisation. The lightbulb moment about improv's potential positive effect on PD, came when Robert introduced his dad, who has PD, to one of his favorite improv instructors, Rob Belushi. A clip of that interview from the  documentary, Boys of Summer, "Second Base", can be seen below.


...And How it Can Help



Improvisation is a transformative exercise, engaging your body and mind. A simple and elegant definition for improv is: "unplanned collaborative response." While it often elicits laughs, and it is fun, it's also much more.

Improv can help increase socialization in the Parkinson's disease (PD) community, decrease depression and reshape the thought process of those affected by PD. It helps us remember and understand that though we may have or be affected by PD, we need not be defined nor unnecessarily limited by it. In short, by participating and communicating, the players will be transformed.


Improvisation has the power to transform and connect groups. There are frequently communication gaps between people with PD and their care partners, as well as medical and wellness providers. By bringing people together to see and hear each other as people, rather than disease states or titles, we can increase understanding, empathy and quality of life.

“Improvisation is a process applicable to any field, discipline, or subject matter which creates a place where full participation, communication, and transformation can take place." 

Viola Spolin


Improv, when focused on play, inclusion, and ensemble-building, has been shown to improve confidence, creativity and mood.  It's important to note that not all improv is the same. Performance-based improv on popular shows such as "Who's Line is it Anyway?" is a blast - but not at all what we're after. We make YOU look and feel great. There are no wrong answers. We celebrate failure, trust the unknown and fiercely have each others backs. Laughter happens together as we find the truth in comedy. Speaking of laughter...

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Improvisation is not stand up comedy. As we do our exercises together, laughter and humor are natural products of the play we share. We discover the laughs organically, together an they're never at anyone else's expense. You know laughter feels good, but did you know it's also been shown to:

Boost the immune system, release endorphins, stimulate circulation and improve respiration (1, 2, 3).


1 Craig, 2005, 2 Baquero, 2013, 3 Schrag, 2006


PD can be a frustrating, painful disease. However, patients don't usually die directly from it. Anxiety and depression, caused by isolation, are comorbidities that can lead to significant losses in quality of life. The good news is, improv can help.


"There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators." - Julianne Holt-Lunstad



After the Northwestern study came out in 2016, Robert ran some workshops of his own across the country. He met with many neurologists, sharing the Northwestern study and what he learned. They all loved the idea and said there needs to be more research. 

So it began. He earned his PhD from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences program. He researched the effect of improvisation and storytelling on Parkinson's disease and found increases in confidence, creativity and communication among his participants. He has worked with the Davis Phinney Foundation, Parkinson's Foundation, PD Avengers, PMD Alliance and many other groups to develop this work.

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