Deirdre O’Shea, PhD

Deirdre O’Shea, PhD, is an Assistant Professor and Clinical Neuropsychologist in the Department of Neurology at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Dr. O’Shea earned her Ph.D. in Clinical and Health Psychology (neuropsychology track) from the University of Florida.  She is a licensed psychologist in Florida (PY11880), with her primary expertise in neuropsychological evaluations of adults. She completed her pre-doctoral clinical psychology internship training at Alpert Brown Medical School where she remained for a two-year clinical neuropsychological fellowship. While at Brown, she also served as the Aging and Dementia Research Fellow in the Department of Neurology (Memory Disorders clinic). She completed her M.S. in Neuropsychology at the University of Edinburgh and undergraduate education in Sociology and Psychology at University College Cork, Ireland where she is a citizen.

Broadly, Dr. O’Shea’s research investigates risk and resilience factors that contribute to variability in cognitive aging and predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD). Dr. O’Shea is currently working on developing novel DNA methylation (DNAm) biomarkers for predicting ADRD risk. These epigenetic markers offer a quantifiable metric of the interplay between genetic and environmental factors over the life course. She is the Principle Investigator of a study titled ‘’Developing a DNAm Biomarker for Cognitive Aging: Addressing Disparities and Promoting Community Engagement’’ which is supported by a  two-year career development award sponsored by the Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute/ National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NIH: 1K12TR004555). Using these DNAm biomarkers, Dr. O’Shea’s research aims to more precisely characterize the relative influence of factors that either bolster cognitive resilience or amplify vulnerability which may lead to enhanced early detection, risk assessment, and personalized interventions for cognitive decline and dementia.

Dr. O’Shea is also a Topic Editor on Epigenetics and Lifestyle in Brain Aging for the journal ‘Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience’ and has served as a reviewer for several leading journals in her field including ‘Neurobiology of Aging’, Journal of Alzheimer’s DiseaseAlzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring and Neuropsychology Review. In recognition of her significant research contributions to her field she was granted United States permanent residency status via the National Interest Waiver program in 2022 to allow her to continue her research in the US indefinitely.

A comprehensive list of Dr. O’Shea’s peer-reviewed publications can be found here:

Ihtsham Ul Haq, MD

Dr. Ihtsham Haq joined the University of Miami as Chief of the Movement Disorders Division in September of 2020.  His passion for the study of the brain began at Columbia University, at which he completed degrees in Bioengineering and in Philosophy. He obtained his medical degree at SUNY Downstate and his Neurology residency training at Georgetown University. After his residency he spent three years at the University of Florida’s Movement Disorders & Neurorestoration program at the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases performing his movement disorders fellowship training. From there he was recruited to the Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina. He spent the next ten years there and reached the position of Associate Professor in Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery. Highlights of his tenure at WFSM include bringing it into the NIH’s premier early clinical trial research consortium NeuroNext, performing pioneering brain implantations for the treatment of Tourette syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and working on multiple NIH-funded projects to phenotype the motor and nonmotor effects of basal ganglia disease.


Dr. Haq’s overall research interest has been in understanding and improving the care of patients with movement disorders, with a focus on technology and brain circuitry. He has been funded by the National Institute of Health, Parkinson’s Foundation, and Smallwood Foundation, as well as partnering with industry to bring better treatments to patients. His NIH funded research has included work on both common (Parkinson’s & Alzheimer’s disease) and rare disorders (ATP1A3 rapid onset dystonia syndrome). He has been performing Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgeries since 2006 and has been part of pioneering efforts to improve targeting, increase the types of devices available to patients, and expand the number of diseases that are treated by the technique. In addition to using DBS to treat Parkinson’s disease, Essential Tremor, and Dystonia, he has used it to treat patients with medication-refractory Tourette’s syndrome and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Dr. Haq has also worked to advance the success of clinical trials, and shortly after being selected to the NIH Clinical Trial Methodology Course in 2017, served as the CoPI of the Wake Forest site for NeuroNext. He now fills the same role at UM.


Since joining UM in 2020, Dr. Haq has overseen rapid growth in the Movement Disorders division. The division now includes six fellowship-trained movement disorder faculty, two advanced care practitioners, and four fellows, practicing across six clinics in South Florida. He has established new partnerships with the American Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, Parkinson’s Foundation of Southwest Florida, and CurePSP Alliance, as well as substantially deepening the division’s longstanding relationship with the Parkinson’s Foundation and Huntington Disease Society. From a trials standpoint, UM is now collaborating on more than 35 industry, NIH, and foundation-funded studies. With respect to DBS, UM implanted more than 100 leads in 2022 and was part of the pivotal trials for both Boston Scientific and Abbott’s DBS devices. He has also made it a focus to take concrete steps to ensure historically underrepresented patients are provided the opportunity to participate in research at UM, including pipeline programs, advocacy, and disparity research. He considers it a privilege to lead this dedicated, compassionate, and experienced team of providers as it strives to redefine the standard for the understanding and care of movement disorders.


Dr. Haq joined the University of Miami Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute (EMBI) in 2021, as a  collaborator and scientific advisory board member, concentrating on aging and vascular influences on cognitive changes in Parkinson’s Disease (PD). He is spearheading a large developmental program exploring brain imaging markers in normal aging and vascular and cognitive shifts in PD. In a pivotal EMBI imaging initiative, Dr. Haq collaborates with a talented team: BME PhD student Taylor Ariko, neurologists Dr. Matt Feldman and Dr. Constantin Stojanovic, BME’s Dr. Weishao Zhao, the Institute for Data Science and Computing’s Dr. Nick Tsinoremas, and Dr. Azizi Seixas, Chair of the Department of Informatics and Health Data Science. This interdisciplinary team is pioneering innovative machine learning algorithms and AI frameworks for MRI scans, focusing on the EMBI’s oldest old cohort, PD patients, and those with cognitive impairment, Lewy body, or undergoing DBS. Furthermore, alongside EMBI Director Dr. Tatjana Rundek, Dr. Haq is instrumental in advancing EMBI’s clinical, research, and educational endeavors at the University of Miami.


David A. Davis, PhD, DABT

Dr. Davis received his PhD in Pathology from Boston University School of Medicine and completed his post doctorate training in brain aging at the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology located at the University of Southern California.

Dr. Davis has devoted his scientific career to exploring the association between environmental exposures and their potential roles in accelerating dementia and movement disorders. His current research focuses on investigating connections between toxins produced by harmful algal blooms, heavy metals, and nanoplastics with pathological changes observed in Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

He is board certified by the American Board of Toxicology, a member of the American Association of Neuropathologists, the American Association of Bioanalysts Board of Registry, the Society of Toxicology Southeastern Chapter, and the International Society of Neurotoxicology.

His work on cyanobacterial toxins has led to publication in Proceedings of the Royal Society, has been featured in several film documentaries, and reported in nationwide news outlets such as CNN, FOX, Miami Herald, New York TimesLos Angeles TimesThe London Economic, and the Washington Post.

Michael J. Kleiman, PhD

Dr. Kleiman is a Researcher and Data Scientist at CCBH. He received his PhD in Experimental Psychology from Florida Atlantic University. Dr. Kleiman’s area of focus is on the intersection between neurology, cognitive psychology, and data science. He has developed tools and machine learning models that use neurobehavioral markers as well as health records, cognitive exam scores, and neuroimaging data for assessing current impairment and predicting future risk of impairment. He was awarded a grant from the Florida Department of Health to develop his novel methodology.

Lilah M. Besser, PhD, MSPH

Dr. Besser’s current research program centers on the intersections between neighborhood built and social environments, healthy aging, and brain health. She is the Principal Investigator on two grant-funded projects on “Longitudinal associations between neighborhood greenspace and brain aging in cognitively normal older adults” (NIH/NIA K01-AG063895) and “Neighborhood segregation and longitudinal change in brain health measures” (AARG-21-850963). In addition, Dr. Besser serves as co-chair on the Social/Structural Determinants of Health Working groups for the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and for the Diversity and Disparities Professional Interest Area for the Alzheimer’s Association International Society to Advance Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment (ISTAART). The ultimate goal of Dr. Besser’s research is to provide evidence to planners, architects, urban designers, policy makers, and public health professionals (among other disciplines) on the neighborhood and community factors that can help maintain cognitive function into older ages, reduce ADRD risk, and allow for healthy aging in place. Abstracts of Dr. Besser’s published articles can be found HERE.

Magdalena Ioana Tolea, PhD

Dr. Magdalena Tolea received her Doctorate in Gerontology, Master of Science in Epidemiology, and Master of Arts in Sociology from University of Maryland. Following her doctoral training, Dr. Tolea completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Epidemiology of Aging at the National Institute on Aging where she developed a research interest in physical functional aging with a focus on psychosocial determinants of physical dysfunction in older adults. As research assistant professor of Neurology at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine (UMMSOM), her research focuses on the intersect between physical dysfunction and cognitive impairment, more specifically on sarcopenia and its role as a potential predictor of cognitive decline and dementia in later life. She also serves as the Associate Director for Research at the Comprehensive Center for Brain Health in the Department of Neurology at the UMMSOM.

Dr. Tolea’s research is supported by funding from the 1FL ADRC (AlzSTARS Program) to investigate contributions of sarcopenia to cognitive decline and dementia in preclinical multicultural populations and the Florida Department of Health to develop community and primary care provider dementia educational interventions in underserved areas. Dr. Tolea’s long-term research goal is to develop lifestyle interventions to reduce risk of dementia by addressing modifiable functionality-related risk factors including sarcopenia, sarcopenic-obesity, and frailty and to identify best approaches to mitigation of racial, ethnic, and rural disparities in dementia screening, diagnosis, and care.

Oliver Bracko, PhD

Dr. Bracko was born in Germany and studied at the University of Tübingen. He received his Ph.D. from the ETH Zürich in Switzerland and did his postdoc at Cornell University under the mentorship of Chris Schaffer. His previous research was focused on adult neuronal stem cells and the impact of stroke on cognitive function.

The lab’s research focuses on brain blood flow reductions and their contribution to dementia. Our previous study has shown that immune cells block the smallest blood vessels of the brain, the capillaries, and these obstructions are increased in Alzheimer’s models. These capillary obstructions are likely caused by inflammation within the vessels and changes in the blood-brain barrier. Both phenomena are shown to be associated with patients with dementia.

The lab uses high-temporal and high-resolution in vivo multi-photon imaging to understand the immune system’s interactions with the microvasculature in neurodegenerative diseases.

Joseph F. Signorile, Ph.D.

Dr Signorile is a Professor of Exercise Physiology in the Department of Kinesiology and Sport Sciences and Director of the Laboratory of Neuromuscular Research and Active Aging. He has been a pioneer in applying the diagnosis/prescription model for tailored exercise to improve function and reduce falls in older persons and continue to work on new technologies for improving independence. Within the context of prescriptive exercise, his laboratory was one of the first to use power training to address physical declines in older persons and individuals with Parkinson’s disease. He has also developed several assessment tools to quantify the physical progression of aging, and most recently the assessment of executive function, through the development of a walking executive function test called the WRIT. His latest work has concentrated on examining the impact of circuit training and modified yoga programming on cardiovascular performance and cognition. He is currently collaborating with researchers from the McKnight Foundation, Department of Neurology and Department of Ophthalmology in establishing the viability of retinal scans to assess changes in cognition using through exercise training. Dr Signorile released my definitive book on aging exercise prescription entitled Bending the Aging Curve in 2011, which has been translated into Cantonese, Korean and Italian.

Girardin Jean-Louis, Ph.D

Girardin Jean-Louis, Ph.D. is Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at the Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami. He is the Director of the Center on Translational Sleep and Circadian Sciences and the PRIDE Institute on Behavioral Medicine and Sleep Disorders Research. He has served on the NIH Sleep Disorders Research Advisory Board, the Cancer, Heart, and Sleep Epidemiology (CHSE-B) study section, the National Advisory Council for National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the SRS Board of Directors, and several NIH Special Emphasis Panels/ Scientific Review Groups. Dr. Jean-Louis has been involved in several NIH-funded studies, which have led to over 400 publications primarily in sleep/circadian sciences and cardiometabolic and brain injury. His research findings have appeared in 215 scientific conference proceedings and book chapters and 235 peer-reviewed scientific journals including NEJM, JAMA, Circulation, Neuroscience Methods, Frontiers, and SLEEP. The overarching goal of his research is to address multi-level barriers hindering adoption of healthful practices in minoritized communities. His research focuses on the application of agile digital health models to enhance treatment adherence to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and brain injury. Dr. Jean-Louis’ research also addresses the psychosocial and environmental determinants of health behavior preventing access to adequate care in diverse communities, disproportionately burdened by adverse cardiovascular and cerebrovascular outcomes. His current research addresses the mechanisms of sleep deficiency and its associations with biomarkers of cardiovascular disease, inflammation, and brain injury, delineating the contribution of structural racism, epigenetics, and ancestry. It’s also noteworthy that Dr. Jean-Louis has a well-established record of leading pipeline training/mentoring programs to foster sustainable careers of underrepresented scientists, anchored in an academic environment of inclusive excellence. Commensurate with his academic achievements, in 2020 he was named ‘Pioneer in Minority Health and Health Disparities’ and one of The Community of Scholars’ most inspiring Black scientists in America. In 2021, he received the Sleep Research Society’s Mary A. Carskadon Outstanding Educator Award.

Aaron S. Heller, PhD

Dr. Heller is a clinical psychologist and affective neuroscientist. His work integrates neuroimaging and real-time mobile health (mHealth) methods to track emotion and behavior in humans to better understand the bio-behavioral mechanisms that give rise to the development of depression and anxiety, and conversely well-being. His work uses computational and data-driven analytic approaches to identify the features of daily experience most linked to well-being and the neural mechanisms that support such individual differences.