PIA Executive Committee:

Reserve, Resilience and Protective Factors


Chair: Prashanthi Vemuri, PhD
Dr. Vemuri is an Associate Professor in the Department of Radiology, Mayo Clinic Rochester and an imaging researcher in Mayo Clinic Study of Aging.  She has a broad background in engineering and clinical neuroscience, with specific training and expertise in imaging of neurodegenerative disorders.
Her career goal is to improve understanding of key mechanistic questions related to neurodegenerative diseases using mathematics, imaging and engineering technology. Specifically, her areas of research are 1) Investigating mechanisms through which protective and risk factors influence Alzheimer’s disease imaging biomarkers and cognitive outcomes. She is interested in discovering pathways to ‘exceptional brain aging’ without Alzheimer pathologies.  2) Developing and validating imaging-based biomarkers to improve the understanding and management of Alzheimer's disease and cerebrovascular disease. She focuses on development of biomarkers of early disease processes that can aid in detection and prevention. 
Dr. Vemuri is a recipient of the NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence grant from the NIA, Alzheimer’s Association New Investigator grant award, and was awarded the AFAR-GE healthcare junior investigator award for excellence in aging and imaging research. Her work is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIA and NINDS).  She has over 120 peer-reviewed journal articles, numerous conference abstracts and book chapters to her credit. She serves on several national and international committees in her research area including study sections for the NIH.

Vice Co-Chair: David Bartres-Faz, PhD
David Bartrés-Faz, PhD is an Associate Professor of Medical Psychology at the Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Barcelona. He is also Associate Researcher at the Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS) and at the Neurosciences Institute of the University of Barcelona. He received his PhD in Neuropsychology in 2000. In 2003, after a postdoctoral research stay at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM, France), he rejoined the University of Barcelona through a Spanish Ministry excellence research fellowship (Ramón y Cajal Program). He has also performed research stays at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School (Boston, USA). He has co-authored a number of research articles in specialized international journals, published several book chapters, supervised 9 PhD thesis and lead 7 consecutive Competitive Spanish Government National Grants as principal investigator. He has also held local leadership positions in two European grant projects and is currently the Principal Investigator of the Barcelona Brain Health Initiative (https://bbhi.cat/en/) and the coordinator of the Brain Stimulation Lab (http://www.ub.edu/bbslab/). His research interests are focused on cognitive ageing and include the use of structural and functional brain imaging techniques as well as non-invasive brain stimulation procedures.

Vice Co-Chair: Nicolai Franzmeier, PhD
Dr. Nicolai Franzmeier is a Post-Doc in the lab of Dr. Michael Ewers at the Institute of Stroke and Dementia Research, University Hospital, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich. His major research interest focuses on identifying functional brain mechanisms that support reserve & resilience in aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Using functional MRI, he and Michael Ewers have discovered a fronto-parietal control network hub that attenuates the impact of AD pathology on cognition and may thus be a promising substrate of reserve (Franzmeier et al., Neurology 2017; Brain 2018; Alzheimer’s Res Therapy, 2018). He also investigates the interplay between cerebrovascular and AD pathology (Araque Caballero et al. Brain 2018) and their effects on functional brain changes (Taylor et al., A&D, 2017).

Programs Co-Chair: Michael Ewers, PhD
Dr. Michael Ewers is a Professor at the Institute of Stroke and Dementia Research, University Hospital, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich. A major research interest focuses on identifying those functional brain mechanisms that underlie reserve capacity in Alzheimer’s disease. In a series of cross-validation studies, fMRI assessed connectivity of a hub in the fronto-parietal control network was found to attenuate the impact of core AD pathology on cognitive performance (Franzmeier et al., Neurology 2017; Brain 2018; Alzheimer’s Res Therapy, 2018). We are also investigating whether microglia activation (measured by biomarkers of TREM2) may provide a protective mechanism in response to AD pathology (Suarez-Calvet et al. Science Translational Medicine, 2016). Another focus is on the identification of cerebrovascular and amyloid-beta related DTI changes to determine when and where white matter alterations occur within the pathological cascade of Alzheimer’s disease (Araque Caballero et al. Brain 2018). 

Programs Co-Chair: Ozioma Okonkwo, PhD
Dr. Okonkwo is a Paul B. Beeson Scholar and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine and the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research focuses on clarifying how alterations in the brain and fluid biomarkers place some cognitively-normal individuals on a pernicious trajectory that culminates in syndromic Alzheimer’s disease. In this context, he is also interested in discovering new knowledge concerning the modulation of the link between brain changes and cognitive decline by both modifiable (e.g., cognitively-stimulating activities, physical exercise) and non-modifiable (e.g., genetic vulnerability) factors.
This program of research involves partnerships with colleagues in diverse fields of study such as neurology, radiology, medical physics, biostatistics, genetic epidemiology, exercise physiology, and clinical chemistry; and has been generously supported by the NIH-NIA, the American Federation for Aging Research, the John A. Hartford Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Extendicare Foundation, and other agencies. Dr. Okonkwo has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles and reviews grant applications for the NIH and several other granting agencies.

Communications Chair: Eider Arenaza-Urquijo, PhD
Dr. Arenaza-Urquijo is a research scientist at Barcelonabeta Brain Research Center (Fundació Pasqual Maragall, Barcelona, Spain). Her research focuses on understanding the brain mechanisms and lifestyle factors underlying resilience to aging and Alzheimer's disease combining multimodal imaging (MRI and PET), lifestyle and neuropsychological assessments. Her contributions to the field include (1) assessment of the effects of education as well as late-life cognitive and physical activities on brain structure and function and Alzheimer’s disease pathologies, (2) identification of imaging markers of resilience at older ages, and (3) development of research frameworks to study resilience and reserve.
Dr. Arenaza-Urquijo obtained her PhD at the University of Barcelona (2013) and performed her postdoctoral research at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research, France (2013-2015, 2017-2018). In 2016, she was a Visiting Scientist at the University of California (Berkeley, California, US) and in 2018, she was a Research Fellow at Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota, US). Dr. Arenaza-Urquijo co-led (workpackage leader) a Horizon 2020 European project aiming at improving brain and mental health in the aging population. She is currently Chair of the Scientific Advisory Group “lifestyle and non-pharmacological interventions” of European Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease (EPAD) Consortium. She has been actively involved in the professional area of interest "Reserve, resilience and protective factors" since its start as Programs Chair.

Steering Committee Member: Sylvie Belleville, PhD
Sylvie Belleville holds a Canada Research Chair on Cognitive neuroscience of aging and brain plasticity, is Full professor at the Psychology Department of University of Montreal and Director of the Research Center of the institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal. She developed an important research program related to cognitive training in healthy aging and mild cognitive impairment and to processes of compensation and plasticity in older adults with or without cognitive deficit. She is also contributed to a better understanding of the neuropsychological deficits found in persons with very early signs of Alzheimer’s disease (or mild cognitive impairment). She has more than 180 peer-reviewed publications. Her research is supported by grants from all major Quebec and Canadian grant agencies. She is leading Team 10 "Cognitive intervention and brain plasticity" for the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) and the Québec Consortium Québécois for early identification of Alzheimer’s disease (CIMA- Q).

Steering Committee Member: Gael Chetelat, PhD
Gaël Chételat (PhD, HDR; www.gael-chetelat.fr) is Director of Research at Inserm. She is responsible of a research team named «Multimodal Neuroimaging and Lifestyle in Ageing and Dementia». She has published more than 150 articles on neuroimaging in ageing and dementia. Her work is devoted to the understanding of the mechanisms underlying ageing and dementia processes and the lifestyle factors that could prevent or delay age-associated disorders. The specificity of her team is to conduct studies combining complementary neuroimaging modalities, including structural and functional MRI with PET using different radiotracers, and to develop innovative multimodal neuroimaging approaches to disentangle complex mechanisms of diseases or cognitive processes. 
Her research team is also interested in promoting healthy ageing and wellbeing through non-pharmaceutical interventions. In particular, Gaël Chételat is coordinating an H2020 European grant (www.silversantestudy.eu, PHC22, 2015-2020) that will investigate the impact of English learning and meditation training on mental health and well-being in ageing populations.

Student Programs Representative: Stephanie Schultz, PhD Candidate

Stephanie Schultz is a third-year neuroscience graduate student at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO.  Her current research focuses on implementing emerging biomarkers to study the relationship between lifestyle factors and brain aging and Alzheimer's disease (AD). She is currently working with Dr. Tammie Benzinger to gain an understanding of first- and second-generation tau PET ligands and blood-based neurodegeneration markers to study AD. Furthermore, she is also working with Dr. Manu Goyal to examine the relationship between physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness, and brain metabolism across adulthood and in AD.

Student Communications Representative: Julie Gonneaud, PhD
Julie Gonneaud is a postdoc in Dr. Sylvia Villeneuve’s laboratory (Douglas Mental Health Institute, McGill University). After getting a neuropsychologist certification, Julie Gonneaud completed her PhD at the University of Caen-Normandy, where she studied the cognitive and cerebral substrates of prospective memory in aging using fMRI and virtual reality. She completed her first postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Gaël Chételat (National Institute for Health and Medical Research - Inserm, University of Caen-Normandy) where she became interested in multimodal neuroimaging of Alzheimer Disease (MRI and PET). She notably studied brain biomarker changes associated with genetic risk factors of Alzheimer's disease and collaborated on projects related to lifestyle factors. In her current work, Julie Gonneaud focuses on the multimodal neuroimaging of asymptomatic individuals with a familial history of Alzheimer’s Disease and presymptomatic individuals carrying autosomal dominant AD mutations. One of her main goals is to understand the factors that could promote reserve and resilience during the preclinical phase of the two variants of the disease.

Immediate Past Chair: Yaakov Stern, PhD
Yaakov Stern is Professor of Neuropsychology in the Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry, as well as the Taub Institute for the Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain, at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.  He is chief of the Cognitive Neuroscience Division of the Department of Neurology. 
Dr. Stern’s research focuses on cognition in normal aging and in diseases of aging, particularly Alzheimer’s disease.  One strong focus of his current research program is investigating the neural basis of cognitive reserve.  He is also conducting a large scale imaging study to identify unique neural networks underlying the major cognitive abilities affected by aging, and a study developing models to predict the clinical course of Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Stern’s research approach includes classic neuropsychological and cognitive experimental techniques, with a strong focus on neuroimaging.  He has published over 550 peer-reviewed papers, numerous chapters, and edited a book on cognitive reserve.