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.

James E. Galvin

James E. Galvin, MD, MPH

James E. Galvin, M.D., M.P.H. is a  Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He is the Founding Director of the Comprehensive Center for Brain Health, Director and Principal Investigator of the Lewy Body Dementia Research Center of Excellence, and Chief of Cognitive Neurology for Palm Beach and Broward County leading brain health and neurodegenerative disease research and clinical programs. Dr. Galvin has authored over 300 scientific publications and 3 textbooks on healthy brain aging, cognitive health, Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy Body dementia, and related disorders. Dr. Galvin has received over $100 Million in research funding from the National Institutes of Health, Alzheimer’s Association, Michael J Fox Foundation, American Federation for Aging Research, Lewy Body Dementia Association, Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, Missouri, New York, and Florida Departments of Health, and numerous Private and Family Foundations.


The major focus of Dr. Galvin’s clinical and research career has been to improve the clinical care and quality of life for all older adults from diverse backgrounds and their family caregivers who are dealing with neurodegenerative disorders in order to initiate early intervention, alleviate psychosocial burden on the patient and family, reduce the impact of race, language, culture, and class on the delivery of health services, and improve health outcomes. His current research program focuses on four themes: (1) Developing and validating new clinical assessment scales to improve detection of cognitive impairment in multicultural community samples to improve health outcomes; (2) Studying the interaction between race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and multiple chronic conditions on the risk of cognitive impairment; (3) Characterizing the clinical, cognitive, behavioral, and biomarker features of neurodegenerative disorders; and (4) Creating novel precision-medicine based interventions based on individual phenotypic, biomarker, and genomic profiles aimed at ADRD risk reduction and dementia prevention.

Scott Brown, PhD

Scott C. Brown, Ph.D. is an environmental health scientist and Research Associate Professor in the UM Miller School of Medicine Department of Public Health Sciences, with a secondary appointment in the School of Architecture. He is Project Director of the UM Built Environment, Behavior and Health Research Group, and for 16 years, has led cross-sectoral, cross-disciplinary federally-funded research studies (NIH, HUD, CDC) to understand those built (physical) environmental policies and strategies that promote health for the most vulnerable residents (i.e., older adults; children; the poor), particularly those at risk for physical inactivity, social isolation, age-related cognitive decline, and behavioral health problems. He is Principal Investigator (PI) on a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Evidence for Action (RWJF E4A) grant examining health impacts of greening (tree-planting) initiatives on cardiovascular health in low-income Miami neighborhoods, and is PI on an Ed & Ethel Moore Alzheimer’s Research Grant from the State of Florida evaluating impacts of greenness and greening initiatives on Alzheimer’s disease incidence, and is PI on a UM Sylvester Cancer Center Pilot Grant investigating greenness’ relationship to cancer. As PI on a US HUD grant, he published the first studies to link block-level greenness (vegetative presence such as tree canopy) to lower risk of chronic conditions (e.g., diabetes; cardiovascular disease; Alzheimer’s disease), using “big data” on ~250k Medicare beneficiaries.
He is Co-Leader of one of 11 inaugural teams selected by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Design+Health Research Consortium. Previously, he completed postdoctoral fellowships in cognitive aging and behavioral health at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and Division of Rheumatology. The overarching goal of his research is to inform policies pertaining to the built environment to enhance health across the lifespan, in the most underserved populations and communities.


Antoni Barrientos, PhD

Dr. Barrientos is interested in the basic processes underlying the biogenesis of the mitochondrial respiratory chain (MRC) and how they bear on human neuromuscular and neurodegenerative disorders and during the aging process. We use yeast and mammalian cell culture models for our research
Three of the research lines in the lab involve:
1- We intend to delineate the assembly process of the enzymes composing the MRC, with special emphasis in cytochrome c oxidase (COX). COX deficiency is the most frequent cause of mitochondrial neuromyopathies in humans and has been shown to decline with age.
2- We are interested in the creation of yeast and neuronal models of age-related human neurodegenerative disorders (including Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease). This will help us study the alterations in mitochondrial physiology that could be essential for the pathogenic mechanism of such disorders.
3- We have created novel yeast models of chronological aging that are being used to explore the role of mitochondrial function in the aging-disease relationship. The results obtained are being validated in mammalian neuronal aging models.


Joyce Gomes-Osman, P.T., Ph.D.

Joyce is a physical therapist, health coach and neuroscientist. After completing her physical therapy degree in her native country of Brazil, she obtained her Ph.D. at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School. As a rehabilitation neuroscientist, Dr. Gomes-Osman is driven to answer questions that can impact people’s ability to live more functional and independent lives. Before joining Linus, Dr. Gomes-Osman worked as an Assistant Professor at the Departments of Physical Therapy and Neurology at University of Miami, dividing her time between teaching neurophysiology, and carrying out studies to disentangle the complex relationships between physical exercise, brain health and postural control in older adults and individuals with various neurological conditions. An important focus of Dr. Gomes-Osman’s work is focused on better understanding how we can optimize lifestyle interventions to promote better brain health for individuals who are aging. This interest in brain health has stemmed both from scientific curiosity, and from experiencing the reality behind the statistics, witnessing memory deficits as a family member. She is deeply committed to characterizing the “active ingredients” of physical exercise as it pertains to maintaining mental sharpness in aging adults. Joyce is very excited to join Linus and work to achieve her long-term goal of delineating individualized exercise and lifestyle programs to promote better brain health in aging. Her work has been featured in many media outlets including The Boston Globe, The Times, CBS News, Medscape, Healthline, and was featured in the Time Magazine article “Here’s How Much Exercise You Need to Keep Your Brain Healthy.” On her free time, Joyce enjoys spending time with her 2.5 year old son Danilo, her husband Brian and their golden doodle puppy Samba. She is passionate about cooking and growing tropical plants, including exotic orchids from all over the world.