Emily Rocha, PhD

Assistant Professor of Neurology

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Rocha focuses on how age-dependent changes in autophagy and lysosomal degradation pathways impact the onset of neurodegenerative diseases. Using a variety of in vitro and in vivo approaches Dr. Rocha aims to understand how lysosomal dysfunction can impact protein aggregation. Dr. Rocha is also interested in developing therapeutic targets and testing novel small molecules to alter age-related lysosomal dysfunction. The overall goal is to prevent, or slow age-related decline associated with neurodegenerative diseases. 

Education & Training

  • PhD, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Post Doc Research Fellow, Neurodegeneration Research Institute, Mclean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Belmont, MA, Neuroscience
  • Post Doc Research Fellow, Pittsburgh Institute of Neurodegenerative diseases, University of Pittsburgh, PA Neuroscience / Neurodegenerative Diseases

Specialized Areas of Clinical, Research and/or Educational Interests 

  • Research: Autophagy – Lysosomal pathway in Neurodegeneration; Parkinson’s disease; Protein accumulation; Endosomal trafficking.  

Professional Organization Membership

  • Society for Neuroscience

Honors & Awards

  • Graduate Award for Ontario Students for Research in Dementia
  • Society for Neuroscience Graduate Student Travel Award
  • Canadian Institute of Health Research Post-Doctoral Fellowship
  • American Parkinson’s disease Foundation Fellowship
  • Parkinson’s disease Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship

Selected Recent Publications

Rocha EM, Smith, GA, Park E, Cao H, Graham A, Brown H, Hayes, MA, Beagan, JA, McLean JR, Izen, SC, Perez-Torres, EJ, Hallett, PJ, Isacson, O. (2015) Chronic pharmacological glucocerebrosidase inhibition induces -synuclein aggregation, microglial and complement activation and synaptic protein changes in mice. Antioxidant Redox Signaling.; 20;23(6):550-64.

Rocha EM, Smith GA, Park E, Cao H, Brown E, Hayes MA, Beagan J, McLean JR, Izen SC, Perez-Torres E, Hallett PJ, Isacson O. Glucocerebrosidase gene therapy prevents α-synucleinopathy of midbrain dopamine neurons. Neurobiol Dis. 2015 Oct;82:495-503. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2015.09.009. Epub 2015 Sep 25. PMID: 26392287.

Di Maio R, Hoffman EK, Rocha EM, Keeney MT, Sanders LH, De Miranda BR, Zharikov A, Van Laar A, Stepan AF, Lanz TA, Kofler JK, Burton EA, Alessi DR, Hastings TG, Greenamyre JT. LRRK2 activation in idiopathic Parkinson's disease. Sci Transl Med. 2018 Jul 25;10(451):eaar5429. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aar5429. PMID: 30045977; PMCID: PMC6344941.

Rocha EM, De Miranda B, Sanders LH. Alpha-synuclein: Pathology, mitochondrial dysfunction and neuroinflammation in Parkinson's disease. Neurobiol Dis. 2018 Jan;109(Pt B):249-257. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2017.04.004. Epub 2017 Apr 8. PMID: 28400134.

Rocha EM, De Miranda BR, Castro S, Drolet R, Hatcher NG, Yao L, Smith SM, Keeney MT, Di Maio R, Kofler J, Hastings TG, Greenamyre JT. LRRK2 inhibition prevents endolysosomal deficits seen in human Parkinson's disease. Neurobiol Dis. 2020 Feb;134:104626. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2019.104626. Epub 2019 Oct 13. PMID: 31618685; PMCID: PMC7345850.