Christian Agudelo, MD

Dr. Christian Agudelo grew up in Miami, Florida. He received a bachelors degree in biomedical engineering from Duke University. He completed medical school at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Funded by a NIMH R25 research fellowship, he studied the psychophysiology in Parkinson’s Disease in medical school. Funded by a NIMH T23 research fellowship, he investigated neuroimaging markers of late-life cognitive and mood disorders at the University of Pittsburgh. He completed residency training in neurology and a fellowship in sleep medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine / Jackson Memorial Hospital. Upon completion of clinical training, he continued as a clinical instructor and the Evelyn F. McKnight Neurocognitive Scholar at the University of Miami, as he developed a research focus investigating the relationship between sleep and cognitive decline. His research currently aims to (1) identify features of sleep physiology associated with cognitive decline, and to (2) identify sleep-related markers of preclinical cognitive decline. He emphasizes working with historically understudied Black and Latino populations both in South Florida and throughout the United States. As sleep can be manipulated pharmacologically, surgically, and behaviorally, he ultimately intends to clinically optimize sleep to mitigate cognitive aging and dementia.

As the Co-Director of Education for the McKnight Brain Institute, Dr. Agudelo develops programs to train residents in cognitive neurology and promote the careers of trainees interested in research. He also works with various community organizations to educate the public about sleep and cognitive health by giving talks throughout South Florida. Dr. Agudelo is a member of professional and scientific organizations dedicated to clinical practice, research, and service, including the American Academy of Neurology and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Xiaoyan Sun, MD, PhD

Dr. Sun started her medical career as a neurologist in China. She obtained her Ph.D. in neuroscience in Japan. She completed her neurology residency training at the Medical University of South Carolina in the United States. She completed a cognitive and behavioral neurology fellowship at the VA Boston Healthcare System in the United States. Her research activities have been primarily focused on Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. Her earlier work includes characterization of biochemical properties of tau protein in the axonal transport and roles of amyloid protein in Alzheimer’s disease. She is one of the earliest researchers to establish quantitative amyloid ELISA in the field. Her long-term efforts are dedicated to identifying biomarkers for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, she is working on the role of CSF synaptic proteins in cognitive function. She has been invited to be a reviewer for multiple journals on Alzheimer’s research. Dr. Sun provides clinical care to patients with cognitive disorders at the Memory disorder clinic of the University of Miami. She is also involved in educational programs for medical students, neurology residents, and is the Education Director for the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Miami. She is a co-director of the brain endowment bank in University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Save [/av_textblock]

Bonnie E. Levin, PhD

Dr. Bonnie Levin is the Schoninger/Goldberg Professor of Neurology and Director of the Division of Neuropsychology and Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Neurology at Miller School of Medicine. She is a neuropsychologist whose research examines neurocognitive and affective changes associated with neurodegenerative disease and the normative aging process. Her work focuses on the intersection of physical, behavioral and sensory changes that take place over the life course, and identifying markers of atypical aging associated with cognitive decline. She explores trajectories of cognitive aging, the underlying neural circuitry, and other biological markers associated with increased risk of cognitive decline. Her data has direct application toward developing timely early interventions for those carrying one or more risk factors as well as for those individuals who strive to age in place and engage in practices that promote healthy aging.

Dr. Levin has received federal and state funding to examine the role of vascular and metabolic risk factors predictors of cognition and how differential markers of physical frailty, emotional dysregulation and sensory change increase the risk of cognitive decline. Other projects include: examining which components of the metabolic syndrome predict cognition, identifying imaging and clinical correlates of white matter changes associated with the aging process and linking structural and metabolic markers underlying different symptom profiles in neurodegenerative disease, defining profiles of risk and resilience in aging, examining the basis of impaired decision making among the elderly, and operationalizing brain fog in long covid.

Schoninger Neuropsychology Program- The Alexandria and Bernard Schoninger Neuropsychology Program was established in 2009 as part of the Evelyn McKnight Brain Institute. Dr. Levin was awarded the Alexandra and Bernard Schoninger Endowed Professorship, which afforded her the opportunity to establish a program that provides comprehensive testing for individuals experiencing memory loss. One of the major aims is to collect data on cardiometabolic risk factors in order to characterize cognitive change associated with the aging process and to define the earliest markers that signal cognitive decline. Each patient who is evaluated will also be a participant in a research registry sponsored by the Evelyn McKnight Brain Institute. This registry has served as an invaluable resource for numerous publications and pilot data for grant applications that support the McKnight Brain Institute’s objectives.

Education and Mentorship

In l989, Dr. Levin initiated the UM Neurology Advanced Training Practicum. At the same time, the Neuropsychology Post-doctoral Fellowship program was initiated. Currently, there are four post-doctoral fellows and six upper level graduate PhD practicum students, and two volunteer undergraduate assistants. Over the past 34 years, she has mentored hundreds of students, interns, residents and fellows. In addition, she leads weekly neuropsychology rounds which are attended by undergraduate and graduate students, post doctoral fellows, neurology residents and faculty, and trainees from other departments, including Psychiatry, Public Health and Sylvester Cancer Center. Dr. Levin has taught the Foundations of Neuropsychology since l989 at the Coral Gables Campus. It remains, to date, the only graduate doctoral level course in neuropsychology offered at UM. This course attracts graduate students from all of the clinical tracks (Child, Adult and Behavioral Medicine).

Dr. Levin’s work is highly collaborative. She actively collaborates with faculty in other departments, including Radiology, Neurosurgery, Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Medicine, Ophthalmology, and Epidemiology and Public Health.

Community Outreach

Dr. Levin is involved in community outreach in the State of Florida. Most recently , she was funded to examine the epidemic of scamming among vulnerable elders and she developed a training intervention to decrease susceptibility to deception. Her pilot study has been successfully launched in English and Spanish and designed to reach the most vulnerable in the Miami community. In addition, a UF-UCF- UM Consortium Project funded by FL DOH, in which Dr. Levin is the PI for UM, is a state wide study to examine the cognitive and imaging markers of scam susceptibility is also underway.

In addition to Dr. Levin, several members of the Division of Neuropsychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, Drs. Annelly Bure, Marina Sarno and Katalina McInerney are forging strong community ties with the Latino Center on Aging. They are regular speakers at community gatherings and on radio talk shows and address a wide range of topics on brain health.

Future Goals

Dr. Levin plans to expand the Schoninger Neuropsychology Program in several directions, all of which promote the strategic plan. First, the Mcknight registry will be expanded to enhance the neurologic, vestibular, kinesthesia, and sensory assessment. This multi-disciplinary data base will serve as a resource for other researchers in the field of aging and, in particular, foster interdepartmental collaboration. It will also provide critical pilot data needed for federal and state funding for future research.

Second, the post doctoral and practicum training sites will be expanded to incorporate dedicated research training. Each post doctoral fellow will be mentored in developing their research interests in the field of aging, working closely under supervision with a faculty member based in the Division of Neuropsychology and Cognitive Neuroscience.

Third, grant applications will be prioritized to foster inter-departmental collaborations at UM and other Mcknight sites. Dr. Levin has worked on the MBAR project since its inception and led the cognitive work group in developing the neuropsychological test battery. She plans to continue leading this effort to the next step towards federal funding. In addition, she continues to work directly with Dr. Rundek on the NOMAS and plans to apply to funding to operationalize specific covid outcomes including brain fog. She is also exploring writing a PCORI grant.

Fourth, Dr. Levin has will work diligently toward expanding community involvement efforts. Several presentations are planned to encourage greater interaction with Hispanic and non-Hispanic individuals residing in the community. Closer relationships with community leaders are integral to disseminating information that educate elders on healthy aging and resilience as well as promoting the importance of research participation.