Cognitive Disorders

The Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology Division is led by Drs. Oscar L. Lopez, MDRiddhi Patira, MD, and Beth Snitz, PhD. The division works tirelessly to advance care of dementia and cognitive disorders through research, specialized clinical care, and close connection with the University of Pittsburgh Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (PITT-ADRC).

Oscar Lopez, MD focuses his research interests on Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and related dementias. He is the Director of the PITT-ADRC and conducts both NIH and industry-sponsored experimental therapeutic studies of AD. The PTT-ADRC provides scientific leadership to multiple research projects at the University of Pittsburgh, and to many national and international consortium studies. Dr. Lopez has conducted studies on behavioral manifestations, risks, and long-term outcomes of dementia, especially AD. His key objectives have been to identify clinical or genetic factors that modify the natural history of dementing illnesses. Dr. Lopez has published classic papers examining the patterns of progression of all clinical forms of dementia, and has examined the effect of psychiatric drugs, and dementia medication on the progression of AD. 

Dr. Lopez has conducted studies on the prevalence and risk factors for dementia in individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and has co-authored the American Academy of Neurology Guidelines for the Diagnosis of MCI. In addition, he has conducted large scale studies to determine whether MRI/PET and blood biomarkers can predict subsequent cognitive impairment and AD pathology in non-demented elderly individuals. Dr. Lopez is currently conducting studies, as principal investigator and co-investigator, of the factors that modulate the transition from normal cognition to MCI and to dementia in relationship to cerebral amyloid deposition. These studies examine how cardiovascular and cerebrovascular factors create a vulnerability state for AD and neurodegeneration, and how they affect physiologically relevant compensatory mechanisms in the brain using MRI, FDG-PET, Pittsburgh Compound B (PiB), and tau-PET ligand technologies. 

Riddhi Patira, MD focuses her research on AD, frontotemporal dementia, and other types of dementia. Dr. Patira is an Assistant Professor on the UPMC neurology faculty within the Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology Division and is a faculty and leader of the frontotemporal dementia module at the PITT-ADRC. Dr. Patira is also leading in the establishment of a cognitive disorders clinic and cognitive elective to support a well-rounded and balanced resident education.

Beth Snitz, PhD focuses her research on the assessment of older patients with cognitive problems, especially on early detection and prediction of AD. She has conducted studies on whether subjective cognitive complaints in normal individuals can predict the deposition of beta-amyloid in the brain and progression to dementia. Dr. Snitz is the principal investigator of the project entitled “Alzheimer Neuroimaging-biomarkers in pre-clinical cognitive decline from a population-based study.” In addition, she has key roles in multiple NIH-funded epidemiological, imaging, and clinical studies: 1) leader of the Clinical Core of the NIA-funded program project grant ‘Imaging Pathophysiology in Aging and Neurodegeneration; 2) co-investigator on ‘MCI: A prospective community study’, a population study of predictors and outcomes of MCI in small-town Southwestern Pennsylvania; 3) Clinical Core leader of the PITT-ADRC; 4) site principal investigator of “Advancing Reliable Measurement in AD and Cognitive Aging (ARMADA), a multi-site study of the NIH-Toolbox, and 5) Clinical Core Team leader of the Human Connectome Project, “Connectomics in Brain Aging and Dementia.”