Research Areas

Research at the McKnight Brain Institute involves an inter-disciplinary collaboration across departments and programs at the University of Miami. This includes neuroepidemiology, neuro-ophthalmology, neuropsychology, psychiatry, aging, physical therapy, sleep disorders, neurology and cell biology, radiology and human genetics. We also collaborate on research initiatives with the McKnight Brain Institutes at the University of Alabama, University of Florida and the University of Arizona.

Clinical and Population-based Research

Our research includes healthy aging adults, adults with age-related memory and cognitive decline, frail elders, oldest-old adults, dementias, black and Hispanic populations and stroke patients. Some of our research areas are: mild cognitive impairment (MCI) vs. normal aging, early cognitive and functional impairment in the elderly, neuropsychological testing and subjective memory complaints, age-related cognitive changes, post-stroke exercise and cognitive training as well as traumatic brain injury and cognition. Additionally, research methods for studying cognitive impairment in chronic migraines, cortical excitability and plasticity using non-invasive brain stimulation, ocular microvascular dysfunction in age-related dementia, sleep and cognition, frailty and caregiver burden are being explored.

Basic and Translational Science

Our basic and translational science research comprises studies on the effects of physical exercise on white matter disease in aged rats, the effects of an enriched environment and exercise on ischemic damage and cognitive abilities in animal models and markers of white matter disease with translational potential for monitoring vascular cognitive impairment. Other disease areas include genetic factors influencing white matter and cognition in relation to aging and animal imaging techniques exploring the effects of diabetes on brain synapses. We also have researchers examining mitochondria and its effect on human neuromuscular and neurodegenerative disorders and the aging process as well as epigenetic mechanisms and the regulation of brain function using transgenic mouse models.

Research Projects

The McKnight MRI Core and Neuropsychology Core Projects

Collaborative cores with other McKnight Brain Institutes involving ongoing research and collection of standardized brain MRIs and neuropsychological assessment data in patients with memory and cognitive loss.

Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute Cognitive Disorders Clinical and Biorepository Registry Collection

A comprehensive longitudinal database registry for patients with age-related memory disorders and dementias. Participants are enrolled from the University of Miami Memory Disorders Clinic, a collaborative effort between Neurology and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. The databank collects information on patient demographics, clinical assessments, medical history, genetic risk factors, imaging data and treatment modalities.

Identification of Biomarkers for Early Diagnosis of Cognitive Impairment in the Elderly 

This study aims to identify new biomarkers that can be detected in participants that are at risk of developing dementia and/or have cognitive impairment.

Evaluating Frailty as a Preventive Measure in Maintaining Quality of Life in Aging 

This research focuses on a clinical and community cohort of aging adults and evaluates their propensity towards being determined non-frail, pre-frail and frail. The goal is early detection and prevention of frailty symptoms and clinical characteristics.

An Analysis of Cognition in Patients with Memory Complaints

This research project examines questions related to the cognitive, psychological and biomedical variables associated with dementia and its subtypes including demographics and risk factors leading to the identification of predictive variables that will improve the understanding of dementia and other memory disorders and its comorbidities.