Population Neuroscience Researchers

Meghan Short, Ph.D.

Meghan Short, Ph.D., is a biostatistician and bioinformatician. Dr. Short’s research interests involve the use and integration of omics data to understand complex biological underpinnings of Alzheimer’s Disease and brain aging. Current and proposed projects include identifying networks of proteins in the plasma proteome in older adults and relating them to brain MRI measures and incident dementia, and examining changes in the gut microbiome related to neurodegeneration. She has also been a statistical analyst for a range of epidemiological studies of cardiovascular risk factors and has developed statistical methods for clinical trials and epidemiological studies with clustered binary outcomes.

Research Areas
Biological & Innovative Research, Population Neuroscience


Claudia L. Satizabal, Ph.D.

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

Xueqiu Jian, Ph.D.

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


Mini E. Jacob, M.D., Ph.D.

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

Mitzi M. Gonzales, Ph.D.

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, Ph.D.

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

Kevin F. Bieniek, Ph.D.

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