Miller School Introduces Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Aging

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The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has renamed the Center on Aging as the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Aging, reflecting a growing emphasis on brain research, diagnostic and clinical services, and educational programs.

From left, Rosie Curiel, Psy.D., David Loewenstein, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Crocco, M.D.

“Our mission is to be a national and international leader in cognitive neuroscience by developing state-of-the-art strategies and new paradigms for studying the aging brain and identifying biomarkers of early disease processes,” said newly appointed director David Loewenstein, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

“We also want to be a destination center for the evaluation, management, treatment and care for older persons and their families with memory and other brain disorders affecting cognition,” Loewenstein said. “We are committed to training the next generation of leaders in the fields of gerontology, geriatric psychiatry, clinical neuropsychology and cognitive neurosciences.”

Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Psychiatry, is delighted with Loewenstein’s appointment to his new role.

“Dr. Loewenstein has been one of the leaders in Alzheimer’s disease research in the United States for the past two decades,” Nemeroff said. “This appointment is a much-needed and well-deserved recognition of his expertise in the field.”

Along with its expanded program, the center’s faculty bid farewell to Sara Czaja, Ph.D., formerly director of the Center on Aging, who has accepted a position as professor of medicine in the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine and director of a new Center on Aging and Behavioral Research at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York.
In almost three decades at the Center on Aging and Department of Psychiatry at UM, Czaja became an international leader in aging, technology and interventions for older adults and their care partners, creating outstanding programs.

Czaja will be appointed emeritus professor at UM and continue some of her research grants involving the Department of Psychiatry. “It was amazing to have the opportunity to work with my close friend and colleague Sara Czaja for more than 25 years,” said Loewenstein. “I greatly look forward to our many collaborative endeavors in the future.”

Located in the Mental Health Hospital Center at UM/Jackson Memorial Medical Center, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Aging has a core faculty that includes, in addition to Nemeroff, the following specialists:

• Elizabeth Crocco, M.D., associate professor of clinical psychiatry, director of the State of Florida Memory Disorders Center at UM and chief of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry

• Rosie Curiel, Psy.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences

• Philip D. Harvey, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, chief of the Division of Psychology

• Daniel Jimenez, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences

• Dolores Perdomo, Ph.D., M.S.W., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences

• Samir Sabbag, M.D., assistant professor of clinical psychiatry, associate program director, psychiatry residency

The Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Aging (CNSA) will play a key role in supporting the Miller School’s neuroscience pillar, and will foster internal collaborations with the McKnight Brain Institute, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, Department of Neurology, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Departments of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine and other UM departments and programs.

“Our expertise in aging, cognitive neuroscience, brain disorders, and novel assessments and interventions put the Department of Psychiatry in a unique position to work with our partners at UM and contribute to advances in this dynamic field,” Loewenstein said.

One of the center’s goals is to expand the role of the Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, a statewide consortium funded by the National Institutes of Health that includes UM, the University of Florida, Mount Sinai Medical Center and other universities in Florida.

“We are preparing a joint proposal to expand this initiative,” Loewenstein said. “We need to gather the best minds in our state together to fight this horrible disease.”

The CNSA’s faculty members have already made major contributions to the diagnosis of preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, including the development of the Loewenstein-Acevedo Scales of Semantic Interference and Learning [LASSI-L]. Funded by grants from the NIH and the State of Florida, this test has been validated in multiple studies nationally and internationally and is highly related to Alzheimer’s disease brain biomarkers.

Now, Curiel is collaborating with the UM Computer Science Department, using funding from another NIH grant to develop cognitive stress tests for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.

“The goal is to develop state-of-the-art models that can be shared with professionals on a secure website,” Loewenstein said. “Convenient access to a new diagnostic instrument will help clinicians deliver interventions to patients and their family members, as well as to assess outcomes in new clinical trials.”