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Women's Brain Initiative

Brain abstract painting

Mission

The mission of the Weill Cornell Women’s Brain Initiative (WBI) is to discover sex-based molecular targets and precision therapies to prevent, delay, and minimize risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Background 

The Weill Cornell WBI represents a major commitment to understand how sex differences affect brain aging and risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, affecting 5.6 million Americans regardless of ethnic and cultural background. The number of persons living with Alzheimer’s is projected to nearly triple by 2050. Currently, there are no therapeutics to prevent, delay or reverse late-onset AD, leading to a host of possible reasons behind the failed clinical trials; one of the most far-reaching is the sex differences in the underlying mechanisms leading to Alzheimer’s. There is growing consensus that, to stem the AD epidemic, sex-specific interventions that can potentially slow or reverse the trajectory of AD earlier in the course of the disease will be required. 

Notably, women are at the epicenter of the AD epidemic. Of every three AD patients, two are women, even after accounting for their greater longevity relative to men. The onset of menopause further increases risk, with postmenopausal women accounting for over 60% of all those affected. Despite the well-established vulnerability of women to AD, there is a striking absence of knowledge on how and why AD affects women more than men, and how to intervene to reduce the risk. 

Our brain imaging studies implicate the menopause transition as an early initiating risk factor for Alzheimer’s in women. While the menopause is typically associated with reproductive senescence, it is the dysregulation of brain estrogen-regulated systems that produces the key neurological symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, disturbed sleep, depression, and memory decline. Overall, these data point to an underwritten headline: the decline in brainestrogen as a female-specific trigger for Alzheimer’s. As such, as women approach midlife, there seems to be a critical window of opportunity, not only to detect signs of early Alzheimer’s but to then intercede with strategies to reduce or prevent that risk by ameliorating estrogen levels. 

Research participation

Of every 3 Alzheimer's patients, 2 are women. Even after accounting for women's greater longevity than men, women still outnumber men 2:1 in the Alzheimer's population. Our research is devoted to unraveling the causes of the increased risk in women. As a starting point, our brain imaging studies have demonstrated a link between estrogen declines and increased Alzheimer's risk in women. Our current NIH-sponsored brain imaging research builds upon those findings to further address the connections between female sex hormones, brain aging, and Alzheimer's risk.

As with any research study, only eligible participants can enroll. At the moment, we are enrolling women and men of age 40-65 years, with a family history of Alzheimer's, and no cognitive impairment or dementia.

If you are eligible and interested in participating in the WBI, we would be happy to provide more details about the study. Please contact wbi-research@med.cornell.edu for more information.

PDF icon View our WCM Women's Brain Initiative brochure

Personnel

Lisa Mosconi
Lisa Mosconi, Ph.D
Director of the Weill Cornell Women’s Brain Initiative (WBI), Associate Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic

 

Hollie Hristov
Hollie Hristov, FNP
Director of Clinical Operations at the WBI, Family Nurse Practitioner at the Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic
Silky Pahlajani
Silky Pahlajani, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Behavioral Neurology and Neuropsychiatry
Richard Isaacson
Richard Isaacson, M.D.
Assistant Dean for Faculty Development, Chief Study Physician for the WBI
Harini Sarva, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, Specialist in Parkinson's disease and movement disorders, Study physician for the WBI
Andrea Lee
Andrea Lee, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, Specialist in Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders, Study Physician for the WBI
Eva Schelbaum
Eva Schelbaum, MA
Study Coordinator
Steve Jett
Steve Jett, MA
Study Coordinator
Lacey Loughlin
Lacey Loughlin, MA
Study Coordinator
Aneela Rahman, Ph.D. Student
Senior Study Coordinator
Nabeel Saif
Nabeel Saif, M.S.
Study Coordinator
Ivan Diaz
Ivan Diaz, Ph.D.
Senior Biostatistician for the WBI
Katherine Hoffman, M.S.
Biostatistician for the WBI

Chief Collaborators

Roberta Diaz Brinton
Roberta Diaz Brinton, Ph.D.
Director of the Center for Innovation in Brain Science at the University of Arizona

 

Claire Henchcliffe
Claire Henchcliffe, M.D., D. Phil
Vice Chair of Clinical Research, Chief, Neurodegenerative Disorders
Orli R. Etingin
Orli R. Etingin, M.D.
Professor of Medicine in Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, Lisa and Sanford B. Ehrenkranz Professor in Women’s Health at Weill Cornell Medical College, Founder and Director of the WCMC Iris Cantor Women’s Health Center
Susan Gauthier, M.D.
Associate Professor of Clinical Neurology, Director of Clinical Research at the Weill Cornell Multiple Sclerosis Center
Teena Shetty
Teena Shetty, M.D.
Founder and Director of the Hospital for Special Surgery Concussion Program, Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College
John Babich, Ph.D.
Professor of Radiopharmaceutical Sciences in Radiology, Chief of Radiochemistry at Weill Cornell
Antonio Convit
Director of the BODy lab at NYU Medical Center
Jonathan Dyke, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Physics Research in Radiology
Alberto Pupi
Professor of Clinical Pathophysiology at University of Florence Medical College

Funding

The Weill Cornell Women’s Brain Initiative is funded by the National Institute of Health/National Institute on Aging (NIH/NIA) grants 2P01AG026572-11, S2P01AG026572-13S1, AG057931; AG057931-01A1; National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) grant UL1TR002384, the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund; Maria Shriver’s Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement; departmental funding; and private donations.

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