PIA Executive Committee:

Alliance of Women Alzheimer's Researchers (AWARE)


 Co-Chair: Nicola T. Lautenschlager, MD, FRANZCP

Nicola T Lautenschlager is an academic old age psychiatrist and the University of Melbourne Professor & Chair of Psychiatry of Old Age in the Department of Psychiatry. In her clinical work she is consultant psychiatrist and Director of Research at the North Western Mental Health, Aged Persons Mental Health Program at Melbourne Health. Nicola is also Deputy Head of School and Research Director of the Melbourne Medical School at the University of Melbourne. She leads the Academic Unit for Psychiatry of Old Age (AUPOA), a multidisciplinary research team, focusing on research aiming to improve cognitive and mental health outcomes of older adults. Her current research focus is in the area of dementia risk reduction and non-pharmacological interventions. Before joining the University of Melbourne in 2008 Nicola completed her clinical and academic training at the Technical University in Munich, Germany, followed by a postdoc year at the Boston University in the US and a seven year tenure at the University of Western Australia in Perth.

 Co-Chair: Ines Moreno-Gonzalez, PhD

Dr. Ines Moreno-Gonzalez is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at The George and Cynthia Mitchell Center for Alzheimer’s disease and related Brain Disorders at the McGovern Medical School, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) since 2013. She received her BSc in Biology in 2003, a Master’s degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology in 2005, and her PhD degree in Neuroscience in 2009 at the University of Malaga (Spain). Dr. Moreno has been trained in several neuroscience-leading international laboratories, including the department of Neurological Diseases Research in Sanofi-Aventis (France), the School of Pharmacy at the University of Seville (Spain), and the Institute of Bio-Engineering, University of Applied Sciences in Geneva (Switzerland). Her PhD thesis focused in three main molecular and cellular aspects of Alzheimer’s neuropathology: amyloid beta (Aβ) deposition, brain inflammation, and neuronal degeneration. She demonstrated that extracellular Aβ and the associated neuroinflammation are major contributors to early neuronal loss and synaptic pathology in an Alzheimer’s mouse model, providing new evidence of the heterogeneous nature of the disease pathology. She also reported the dual role, both protective and toxic, of the inflammatory process during the time course of the disease. As a result, she provided important biomarkers to assess the efficacy of potential early Alzheimer’s treatments. From 2010 to 2013, she was a postdoctoral fellow at UTHealth. Her postdoctoral work has been concentrated in disease-modifying factors that may accelerate the onset or progression of the disease. To this end, she analyzed the effect of smoking in Alzheimer’s pathology by exposing transgenic mouse models to cigarette smoke and observed that smoke inhalation was able to exacerbate Alzheimer’s related pathological features. Additionally, she has recently demonstrated that type 2 diabetes may potentiate Alzheimer’s pathology through cross-seeding of misfolded proteins, e.g. amylin and Aβ, suggesting a mechanism to explain the high coexistence of both diseases. Furthermore, she is currently concluding studies to determine if consumption or inoculation of cattle tissue harboring amyloidogenic aggregates can worsen Alzheimer's neuropathology. This work was funded by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Continuing with the analysis of risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Moreno is currently studying the contribution of misfolded aggregates on the development of Alzheimer’s pathology after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) event. To this end, she is analyzing the formation of tau aggregates after repetitive mild TBI events using in vitro and in vivo approaches as well as the presence of misfolded proteins in blood and cerebrospinal fluid as biomarkers for disease progression. This work has been recently funded by the Department of Defense. In addition, she was awarded with a grant from the Alzheimer’s Association to develop an imaging test to detect AD-like pathological abnormalities after TBI to detect and track the progression of neuropathological changes. Her working hypothesis is that TBI pathology could be monitored using a combined PET/CT imaging for amyloid beta deposition, tau hyper-phosphorylation, and neuroinflammation.

 Vice Chair: Duygu Tosun, PhD 

Duygu Tosun, PhD, is an Assoiate Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at the University of California - San Francisco, and Director of the Medical Imaging Informatics and Artificial Intelligence at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Dr. Tosun obtained her B.Sc. in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Bilkent University, Turkey in 1999, and she received her MSE in Electrical and Computer Engineering from The Johns Hopkins University, Maryland in 2001. In 2003, she completed her MA in Mathematics from The Johns Hopkins University, and she earned her PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from The Johns Hopkins University in 2005, followed by a Postdoctoral fellowship in Neurology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2008.

Dr. Tosun's research is in the field of neuroimaging in aging, neurodegenerative diseases, and psychiatric disorders, and aims to apply advanced imaging technology to identify multi-disciplinary and multi-modality biomarkers to detect the pathophysiological progression of neuropathologies before they cause irreversible damage to the brain. Dr. Tosun aims to develop validated imaging markers, potentially providing a means of monitoring the efficacy and regional specificity of drug therapy for neurodegenerative diseases. This will have a broad use in early diagnosis, facilitating initiation of prevention strategies in those at risk, and boost the power of drug therapy trials by selecting those at greatest risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Dr. Tosun's research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, California Department of Public Health, Department of Defense, Alzheimer's Association, Michael J. Fox Foundation, and industry partners. Dr. Tosun received the AFAR-GE Healthcare Junior Investigator Award for Excellence in Imaging and Aging Research in 2010 and 2011. Dr. Tosun is a recipient of de Leon Neuroimaging Prize for Junior Investigator awarded by Alzheimer's Association International Conference in 2011. Dr. Tosun was named as the Top Young Artificial Intelligence (AI) Talent for 2017 at the BioData World West.

 Programs Chair: Aparna Vasanthakumar, PhD

Aparna Vasanthakumar is a Principal Research Scientist inthe Genomics Research Center in AbbVie, where she directs pharmacogenomic and exploratorygenomic studies in the Neuroscience, General Medicine and Virology spaces.  She was the 2019 chair of the Alzheimer’sdisease neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) private partners Scientific Board (PPSB), which manages the companies and private institutions that provide advice from the industry scientific perspective on the ADNI consortium. She also leads the ADNI DNA methylation working group, a sub-team within the ADNI Genetics core, which has as its objective as the longitudinal epigenetic analysis of ADNI subjects to identify novel biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease progression. 
Before joining AbbVie in 2015, Aparna was a ResearchAssistant Professor at The University of Chicago specializing in utilizing genetic and epigenetic methods to characterize normal cell development and disease-specific mechanisms, specifically in amyloid leukemias. She received an NIH Ruth Kirschstein post-doctoral fellowship to elucidate the role of epigenetic changes in hematopoietic stem cell function. She worked with Dr. Lucy Godley in the Department of Medicine at The University of Chicago during her post-doctoral research. Prior to that, she received her PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at The University of Wisconsin, Madison in the laboratory of Dr. Richard Eisenstein. 

Communications Co-Chair: Shannon Risacher, PhD

Shannon Risacher, PhD is currently an Assistant Professor of Radiology and Imaging Science at the Indiana University School of Medicine and co-Leader of the Neuroimaging Core of the Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center. She received her PhD in Medical Neuroscience in 2011 from the Indiana University School of Medicine. Her thesis focused on neuroimaging measures as early biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Risacher’s current work focuses on neuroimaging and sensory measures (visual, olfactory, and auditory) as biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease in preclinical and prodromal stages. In addition, she is interested in the role of co-morbidities, drug use, and lifestyle factors in the risk for and progression of cognitive impairment. Finally, she is involved in a number of collaborative studies using neuroimaging measures as endophenotypes to detect novel and explore known genetic variations associated with Alzheimer’s disease pathophysiology. 

 Membership Chair: Diana Karamacoska, PhD

Dr Diana Karamacoska is a cognitive neuroscientist and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at NICM Health Research Institute. She runs Australia’s largest clinical trial for vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease mixed with cerebrovascular disease, and is interested in understanding how lifestyle interventions, herbal medicines, and alternative therapies affect neurocognitive functioning.  Her PhD research was conducted at the University of Wollongong and explored the neuronal mechanisms of executive control.  After being awarded Examiners’ Commendation for Outstanding Thesis, she continues this work to identify the therapeutic potential of lifestyle medicines for cognitive decline and dementia.  She is passionate about connecting people with research opportunities and raising awareness for dementia prevention, and strategies to improve quality of life and care.

 Student/Postdoctoral Member: Rachel Bernier, PhD
Rachel Bernier is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) working under the mentorship of Drs. Erin Sundermann and Sarah Banks on the Women: Inflammation and Tau Study (WITS). She also conducts neuropsychological evaluations under Dr. Banks’ supervision in the Center for Memory Disorders and Brain Health at UCSD. She earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology with an emphasis in neuropsychology at the Pennsylvania State University under the mentorship of Dr. Frank Hillary. She is interested in examining possible mechanisms, such as functional connectivity, that may account for sex/gender differences in the prevalence and clinical course of Alzheimer’s disease. Rachel is particularly interested in how modifiable risk factors, such as physical activity, may reduce women’s increased susceptibility to the effects of neuroinflammation compared to men. She is passionate about promoting mentorship and advancement of women through an intersectional lens.

 Student/Postdoctoral Member: Anika Wüstefeld, PhD
Anika Wüstefeld is a PhD candidate at Lund University, Sweden under the supervision of Dr. Laura Wisse and working with the Swedish BioFINDER study group. She received her BSc in psychology in 2017 and obtained her research master’s degree in behavioral and social sciences specializing in neuropsychology in 2019, both at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. She also gathered some clinical experience with neurodegenerative diseases in a rehabilitation setting and gained insights into multidisciplinary research at the Karolinska Institute, Sweden before starting to work on her PhD degree in 2020. Her current research focuses on understanding underlying mechanisms of aging and neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s disease. With the use of structural neuroimaging techniques, she is primarily investigating the role of the medial temporal lobe in these processes. She is additionally interested in cognitive decline during neurodegenerative diseases as well as in elements of lifestyle as potential risk factors.


 Immediate Past Co-Chair: Kelly T. Dineley, PhD
Dr. Kelly Dineley, attended the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where she received her BA in 1983 (Biology) and her MS in 1986 (Cell Biology). In 1998, she received her PhD in Neuroscience from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Following a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. J David Sweatt, Dr. Dineley joined the faculty ranks at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in 2003. She has steadily funded her research with grants from the National Institutes of Health, the John Sealy Memorial Endowment Fund for Biomedical Research, the Dunn Foundation, the Brown Foundation, Inc., the Alzheimer’s Association, the Bright Focus Foundation, the Peter F. McManus Foundation, and the Mohn Foundation.

Dr. Dineley studies:
 *Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and related proteionopathies: amyloidopathies, tauopathies, synucleinopathies
 *Cocaine abuse and addiction biology
 *Animal models utilizing genetic and pharmacological manipulations
 *Omics and bioinformatics approaches for the identification and validation of novel mechanisms that underlie memory and cognitive deficits induced by aging, neurodegenerative disease, and drug abuse
 *Nuclear receptors (PPAR), nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, ERK MAPK, CREB, CBP, calcineurin
 *Protein-protein interactions

Dr. Dineley lives in Galveston with her husband, Dr. Larry Denner, and son.

 Immediate Past Co-Chair: Rema Raman, PhD

Rema Raman, PhD, is a tenured Professor of Neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) and the Director of Biostatistics of USC’s Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute (ATRI). Her statistical research interests are in efficient clinical trial design and monitoring approaches (risk-based monitoring, data visualization), and correlated data analysis topics (impact of missing data, analysis of ordinal data). Dr. Raman has extensive experience as a biostatistician in biomedical research projects, providing biostatistics and data management leadership to the design, coordination, conduct and analyses of clinical trials and large observational studies. She has served or currently serves as the primary statistician for several, multi-center clinical trials in Alzheimer’s disease, acute stroke, post-traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injury. She is a member of several NIH study sections and serves as the Biostatistician on several Data and Safety Monitoring Boards.