eBRAIN Training

T32 Training Grant

Population Neuroscience of Aging, Alzheimer’s Disease and
Age-related Dementia (PNA)

Our Vision

To understand the causes and mechanisms of ADRD, population neuroscientists of the future must be able to link environmental exposures, lifestyles, comorbidities, and genomics with knowledge of modern technology of neurosciences and measurements of brain disease and data science.

About The Grant

T32 Training Grant

The University of Pittsburgh offers a pre- and post- doctoral training grant in Population Neuroscience of Aging & Alzheimer’s Disease.

The PNA Training Grant will train highly talented individuals to pursue successful independent research in the etiology of Alzheimer’s Disease and other age-related dementia (ADRD).

The grant offers 3 pre-doc (each one up to 4 years) and 2 post-doc positions (each one for up to 3 years).  

Our PNA curriculum addresses this need by providing:

  • foundational knowledge in population science and neuroscience of aging
  • availability of multi-center and international databases
  • enhanced training in cutting-edge multimodal methodologies to measure brain changes with age, including neuropsychological assessment, neuroimaging, and post-mortem assessments
  • hands-on experiences on recruitment and data collection, including internet-based study designs
  • opportunity to network with high-caliber scientists locally, nationally and internationally
  • training in the responsible conduct of research

T32 PNA Meetings – Fall 2022

  • T32 PNA Meeting: Introduction

    Introduction – PNA at Pitt presented by Drs. Rosano, Rosso and Shaaban Meeting details and Zoo...

    September 12 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
  • T32 PNA Meeting: Speed Dating

    “Speed Dating” with all trainees Each trainee gives an elevator pitch of their research...

    September 26 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
  • T32 PNA Meeting: Journal Club

    PNA Journal Club presented by trainees and Shruthi Venkatesh This multi-disciplinary journal club dr...

    October 10 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
  • T32 PNA Meeting: Brain Storming

    Brain Storming with trainees and Thomas Kraynak Meeting details and Zoom link information →

    October 24 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
  • T32 PNA Meeting: Shark Tank

    Shark Tank presented by trainees At the start of each “tank”, trainees are given the tables and ...

    November 7 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
  • T32 PNA Meeting: Journal Club

    PNA Journal Club presented by trainees and Jermon Drake This multi-disciplinary journal club draws ...

    November 28 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
  • T32 PNA Meeting: Brain Storming

    Brain Storming with trainees and Kailyn Witonsky Meeting details and Zoom link information →

    December 5 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
  • T32 PNA Meeting: Shark Tank

    Shark Tank with trainees  At the start of each “tank”, trainees are given the tables and figure...

    December 19 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Meet Our Students

2022-2023 PNA Epidemiology Trainees

T-Shirt Motto  

We asked our T32 Trainees to give us their t-shirt motto – two short sentences answering these questions…

What have you discovered so far?
What do you want to discover?

Jermon Drake

Jermon Drake

pre-doctoral trainee

primary faculty mentor: Dr. Gianaros

Curriculum Vitae
PubMed

My research aims to elucidate why certain racial/ethnic groups and those with lower levels of socioeconomic status are a greater risk of experiencing accelerated neurocognitive decline, and how modifiable lifestyle factors, especially physical activity, may reduce risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

What have you discovered so far?

APOE ε4 carriers with overweight/obesity exhibit reduced fMRI brain activity during a working memory task. 

What do you want to discover?

I want to discover the neurobiological and physiological pathways by which modifiable lifestyle factors contribute to resistance and resilience to Alzheimer’s disease pathology, and the extent to which factors implicated in resistance and resilience are similar or dissociable.

Shruthi Venkatesh

Shruthi Venkatesh

pre-doctoral trainee

primary faculty mentor: Dr. Xia

Biosketch
ORCID
PubMed

Current position: First-year graduate student in the Department of Biomedical Informatics, MD-PhD candidate at University of Pittsburgh
Academic interest: Developing and applying clinical informatics techniques to study neurodegenerative disease.
Fun fact: I love learning languages and speak 5 of them!
What have you discovered so far?

My recent work has focused on examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with multiple sclerosis, investigating how the social networks of people with multiple sclerosis and control participants changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and understanding how comprehensive assessment of environmental factors can predict neurological disability in people with multiple sclerosis. 

What do you want to discover?

I’m excited to develop novel clinical informatics and analytical approaches that will enable us to derive important insights from the rapidly growing healthcare data sources with a focus on neurodegenerative diseases.

Kailyn Witonsky

Kailyn Witonsky

pre-doctoral trainee

primary faculty mentor: Dr. Rosano

Curriculum Vitae
PubMed

What have you discovered so far?

My previous research experience has spanned numerous fields and required multidisciplinary perspectives, including epidemiological, clinical, neurological, computational, and statistical. One of the discoveries I am most proud of is my novel application of a Markov chain analysis to a behavioral neuroscience problem. Throughout my experiences I have personally discovered the deep value of interdisciplinary collaboration.

I am excited to update this answer further as I progress in this program.

What do you want to discover?

I want to discover, as a leading member of a multidisciplinary team, the relationship between digital platforms and neurological aging among older adults. Do different digital platforms enhance resilient aging? If so, which, when, and how? 

Mary Gantz Marker

Mary Gantz Marker

post-doctoral trainee

primary faculty mentor: Dr. Rosano

Curriculum Vitae
PubMed

Neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and Alzheimer’s Disease

Thomas Kraynak

Thomas Kraynak

post-doctoral trainee

primary faculty mentor: Dr. Andreescu

Curriculum Vitae
PubMed

 

My research focuses on brain-body pathways that link psychological stress and stress-related peripheral physiology with physical health and brain health. In addition, I am interested in leveraging machine learning approaches to reliably identify predictors of brain health throughout the life course. Finally, I am interested in applying noninvasive neuromodulation techniques to target and potentially modify brain circuits that may link stress to dementia risk.

What have you discovered so far?

Individuals with elevated subclinical cardiovascular disease risk factors show an accelerated pace of brain aging at midlife (30 – 50 years).

What do you want to discover?

I want to discover the biological and neurophysiological pathways that play a role in linking psychological stress and physical health to accelerated brain aging and risk for age-related dementia.

Previous Students

Former PNA T32 Training Grant Trainees

Rebecca Ehrenkranz

Scientific Program Manager at the NIA’s Office of Clinical Research

Focus: exploring energy in aging populations across the following domains: cognition, mood, physical function, and physical activity. I have a bachelors degree from Brandeis University and an MPH from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In my spare time, I enjoy rock climbing (both indoor and outdoor).

Primary Faculty Mentor: Dr. Rosano

Curriculum Vitae
PubMed
LinkedIn

rebeccaehrenkranz.org

Sara Godina

PhD Student, PI of R36 grant – The impact of the neighborhood environment on cognitively healthy life years and structural markers of brain health

Topic: identifying environmental risk factors for brain aging. I am particularly interested in reduction of health disparities in dementia, among Black and Hispanic older adults. My current projects involve examining the neural correlates underlying racial differences in cognitive impairment to clarify mechanisms.

Primary Faculty Mentor: Dr. Rosso

Curriculum Vitae

Alina Lesnovskaya

Graduate student in the Clinical and Biological Health Psychology Program, School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pittsburgh

Focus: promoting healthy brain aging through accessible non-pharmacological interventions, such as exercise training. I am also interested in utilizing functional and structural neuroimaging to study individual differences in healthy and pathological aging.

Primary Faculty Mentor: Dr. Erickson

Curriculum Vitae
PubMed
LinkedIn

Maria Ly, MD, PhD

Post-doctoral Associate at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, University of Michigan

Topic: Utilization of multimodal imaging and machine learning models to;  1: identify early biomarkers or predictors of outcome in aging and Alzheimer’s disease and,  2: identify risk factors and resilience factors in aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

My thesis work is based on a machine-learning algorithm that predicts brain age, which may be a proxy for brain reserve.

Primary Faculty Mentor: Dr. Aizenstein

Curriculum Vitae
PubMed

Beth Shabaan, PhD, MPH

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, in the School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh

Focus: vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID). I am particularly interested in the interplay of cerebrovascular integrity and Alzheimer’s disease pathology in the development of clinically overt cognitive impairment and whether promotion of cerebral small vessel integrity can prevent cognitive impairment. A new line of my work involves sex and gender differences and sex and gender-specific risk in VCID / Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD).

Primary Faculty Mentor: Dr. Klunk

Curriculum Vitae
LinkedIn
PubMed

Briana Sprague, PhD

Assistant Professor at University of Indiana

Topic: My research topic involves the relationship between complex physical functions (e.g., walking) and cognitive function (broadly, but primarily interested in processing speed) in older adulthood. In addition, I want to develop an understanding of how neurological mechanisms (e.g., dopamine) impact this relationship. Ultimately, I am interested in how we can leverage these factors to prevent or attenuate declines in physical, cognitive, and everyday function in older adulthood.

Primary Faculty Mentor: Dr. Rosano

Curriculum Vitae
LinkedIn
PubMed

Retreats

T32 Training
Grant Retreats

The 2020 Retreat has been canceled due to the COVID 19 crisis. It will be rescheduled at a later time.

Forms

T32 Forms