Population Neuroscience Researchers

Claudia L. Satizabal, PhD

Interests are centered on the lifestyle and genetic determinants influencing abnormal brain aging (cerebrovascular and neurodegenerative neuroimaging markers), stroke, cognitive decline and dementia. Ongoing research is focused on the impact of midlife obesity on the risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s Disease and related endophenotypes, the association between fatty acids and the risk of stroke and understanding the relationship between mitochondrial DNA features and age-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s Disease.

Actively involved in the Neurology and Cognitive working groups of the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) consortium, leading projects investigating the genetic determinants of subcortical brain structures fine motor speed and visual memory. Other collaborations, include the Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed), the Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project (ADSP) and the Markers for Vascular Contributions to Cognitive Impairment and Dementia (MarkVCID).



Research Areas
Population Neuroscience

Contact:
satizabal@uthscsa.edu
Research Profile

Muralidharan Sargurupremraj, PhD

Muralidharan Sargurupremraj, PhD, is a geneticist with both statistical and molecular biology experience. Dr. Sargurupremraj is an active member of several large-scale consortiums and lead multiple projects generating primary genetic association evidence for complex neurological, neurodegenerative diseases and their various endophenotypes (white matter hyperintensities, brain infarcts, memory performance, etc.). His specific interest is studying the vascular contribution to Alzheimer’s disease – a common form of dementia that often co-exists with cerebrovascular disease. He is involved in the systematic exploration for biological pleiotropy and causal inference using instrumental variable methods with a specific focus on gene prioritization strategies for augmenting the performance of disease-risk prediction that is based on common genetic variants. Dr. Sargurupremraj is also experienced in the application of multi-omics data to infer cell/tissue type specificity in cerebral small vessel disease (cSVD) both at the bulk and single-cell resolution. His renewed interest is in studying gene-environment interaction by involving epigenetic information and a specific class of genetic elements that transpose in the genome using robust statistical methods particularly in relation to the magnetic resonance imaging markers for cSVD and atrophy.



Research Areas
Population Neuroscience

Contact:
Research Profile

Xueqiu Jian, PhD

Research interests include the genetic epidemiology of human complex traits related to brain aging, with an emphasis on the discovery of novel genes influencing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related endophenotypes such as brain imaging markers and measures of neurocognitive function, using integrated multi-omics approaches in large-scale population-based cohort studies. Ongoing work is focused on detecting and characterizing rare copy number variation for Alzheimer’s disease by leveraging the next-generation sequencing technologies. Other interests include functional prediction and annotation of genetic variants using bioinformatics tools.

Some international collaborative efforts include the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) consortium, the Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project (ADSP), the Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) program and the International Genomics of Alzheimer’s Project (IGAP).



Research Areas
Population Neuroscience

Contact:
Research Profile

Mini E. Jacob, MD, PhD

Research focuses on the process of disablement among older adults, particularly on the intertwining pathways to mobility disability and dementia. Previous studies evaluated whether behavioral factors like diet and physical activity in early old age can continue to influence health and affect the length of terminal morbidity and disability. Ongoing projects examine patterns and burden of multi-morbidity as a risk factor for disablement, the role of cognitive impairment in the pathway to disability and how a combination of physical and cognitive impairment can influence disablement. Current objectives also include evaluating how physical function measures correlate with markers of Alzheimer’s disease in asymptomatic individuals and identifying mobility measures that reflect brain vascular pathology.



Research Areas
Clinical Research, Population Neuroscience

Contact:
jacobm@uthscsa.edu
Research Profile

Jayandra Jung Himali, PhD

Research efforts are focused on the interrelated areas of : (i) the epidemiology of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), (ii) traditional and novel biomarkers for dementia and AD, (iii) the epidemiology of  stroke and vascular cognitive impairment, and understanding vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia including AD and (iv) investigating the role of modifiable lifestyle factors: sleep, diet, physical activity on the incidence of dementia, cognitive decline and MRI-defined brain aging. Additional research focuses on outcome assessment in epilepsy and neuropathology.

Jayandra Jung Himali, Ph.D., also serves as an investigator of the Framingham Heart Study and an adjunct associate professor of neurology and biostatistics at Boston University Schools of Medicine and of Public Health.



Research Areas
Biological & Innovative Research, Population Neuroscience

Contact:
himali@uthscsa.edu

Mitzi M. Gonzales, PhD, ABPP-CN

Research broadly focuses on identifying mechanisms and biomarkers of advanced age-related cognitive decline and dementia in effort to aid timely diagnosis, prevent progression and advance treatment discovery. This research leverages clinical neuropsychology, structural and functional neuroimaging and genomics. A primary aim is to understand the underlying mechanisms linking cardiovascular disease with increased dementia risk and develop interventions that slow the rate of cognitive decline.



Research Areas
Clinical Research, Population Neuroscience

Contact:
Research Profile

Bernard Fongang, PhD

Research focuses on developing new computational tools to understand the genetics, genomics and environmental factors driving Alzheimer’s diseases and related disorders. Recent studies have highlighted the association between the gut microbiome, the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin and several neurological disorders. But at the molecular level, how the gut microbiota interacts with the host to produce serotonin and the mechanisms leading to neurological disorders are still not well understood. Research interests include the relationship between serotonin receptors (structurally and functionally), the gut microbiome, the Omics (Genomics, Genetics, Proteomics, Metabolomics) and the risk of dementia, stroke and related neurological endophenotypes. Dr. Fongang’s lab is currently: (i) studying how changes in the gut microbiota are associated with risk of dementia, vascular dementia, and stroke within the Framingham Heart Study; (ii) identifying new genetic loci associated with all-cause dementia and vascular dementia within the CHARGE (Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology) consortium; (iii) studying the  gene expression patterns and regulatory elements associated with cerebral small vessel disease and vascular dementia; (iv) predicting novel druggable interfaces of serotonin receptors involved in Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.

These projects involve using and developing cutting-edge algorithms and software to individually study the contribution of each factor (Omics, serotonin receptors, gut microbiome) to neurological disorders and integrate the resulting information to identify profiles associated with risk of cognitive impairment, stroke and dementia with the ultimate goal of personalized medicine.



Research Areas
Biological & Innovative Research, Population Neuroscience

Contact:
Fongang@uthscsa.edu
Research Profile

Kevin F. Bieniek, PhD

Research focuses on elucidating the role of traumatic brain injury exposure on the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative disorders like chronic traumatic encephalopathy and Alzheimer’s disease by studying the relationships between sports-related and military-related head trauma, underlying burden and distribution of tau and beta-amyloid pathology, hereditary genetic risk factors and resulting neurocognitive deficits.  Additional research interests include the impact of repetitive mild traumatic brain injury on the etiology and progression of TDP-43 pathology, on other concomitant neurodegenerative pathologies and on normal aging.

Kevin F. Bieniek, Ph.D., also serves as the Director of the Biggs Institute Brain Bank, a comprehensive, multidisciplinary repository of central and peripheral nervous system tissues from a variety of neurodegenerative disorders.



Research Areas
Biological & Innovative Research, Clinical Research, Population Neuroscience

Contact:
bieniek@uthscsa.edu
Research Profile