Dr. Lopez is the Director of the University of Pittsburgh Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, the principal investigator of 3 NIH-funded grants, and he is co-investigator in other 6 NIH-funded projects and consultant in another 3. Dr. Lopez is conducting a large-scale study in the clinical diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is considered an intermediate state between normalcy and dementia. His findings are relevant to an understanding of the symptom profile and nosology of MCI.
Dr. Lopez is currently conducting studies, as principal investigator and co-investigator, of the factors that modulate the transition from normal to mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and to dementia in relationship to cerebral amyloid deposition. These studies examine how cardiovascular and cerebrovascular factors create a vulnerability state for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and neurodegeneration, and how they affect physiologically relevant compensatory mechanisms in the brain using MRI, FDG-PET, and Pittsburgh Compound B (PiB) technologies.
Dr. Lopez’s group has recently examined the factors that affected brain structure in cognitively normal elderly individuals in the Cardiovascular Health Study Cognition Study (CHS-CS) (P.I.: Dr. Lopez). Because age is the most important risk factor for AD, Dr. Lopez’s group examined the brains of cognitively normal using MRI technology. This study showed that with older age, there were lower cerebral grey matter volumes in sensorimotor and heteromodal association areas in frontal, temporal, occipital, and parietal lobes, as well as in the cerebellum.
In collaboration with the University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA), Dr. Lopez’s group examined the association between brain volume and obesity in cognitively normal individuals enrolled in the CHS-CS. A multivariate model revealed that body mass index (BMI) negatively correlated with brain atrophy, especially in the frontal lobes, anterior cingulate gyrus, and hippocampus. These results indicated that cardiovascular risk factors, such as obesity, are associated with detectable brain volume deficits in elderly persons with normal cognitive function. This paper received wide coverage from multiple local, national and international media agencies (e.g., Pittsburgh Post Gazette, New York Times, NPR).
In collaboration with the University of California - San Francisco (UCSF), Dr. Lopez’s group developed a late-life Dementia Risk Index that can stratify older adults into those with a low, moderate, and high risk of developing dementia within 6 years. The Dementia Risk Index accurately stratified older adults into those with a low, moderate, and high risk of developing dementia, and it could be used in clinical research settings to target prevention and intervention strategies. This study was considered among the most important scientific publications in the year 2009 by Time Magazine (The Year in Health 2009).
Study Sections and Advisory Committee Memberships
- NIH, Aging Systems and Geriatrics Study Section (ASG). (Permanent member since 2008)
- Lewy Body Dementia Association, Scientific Advisory Committee
- National Alzheimer’s Disease Coordinating Center Steering Committee member.
- Working Group for the American Academy of Neurology Guidelines for the Diagnosis of
- Mild Cognitive Impairment.
- Working Group for the American Heart Association Guidelines for the Diagnosis of
- Vascular Cognitive Impairment.
- Human Brain Mapping Organization. Reviewer of abstracts for the 16th annual meeting.
- Minneapolis, MN, U.S.A.
Editorial Board, Neuropsychology Review, Associate Editor
Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders
Archives of Neurology
Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, & Psychiatry
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
Neurobiology of Aging
Alzheimer’s & Dementia
Archives of Internal Medicine
Ad Hoc Grant Reviewer
Alzheimer’s Association, Chicago, IL
Dr. Lopez's publications can be reviewed through the National Library of Medicine's publication database.