Keynote Speakers

Get to know more about the speakers of the Northern Lights Neuroscience Symposium 2024.
Irina I Alafuzoff

Irina I Alafuzoff MD,PhD is professor emerita in Neuropathology at Uppsala University (UU) and Consultant Neuropathologist at Uppsala University Hospital UUH). She completed her training in medicine at Umeå University (1984), surgical pathology at Huddinge University Hospital (1991), defended her PhD thesis in Neuroscience at Umeå University (1986), was visiting scientist at the Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities, Staten Island, New York, at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Div. in Neuropathology, New York and at Yale University School of Medicine Section of Neuropathology, New Haven (1992, 1993-1996). She was professor in pathology 2002-2004, professor in neuropathology 2007-2009 at Kuopio University, and clinical director of the department of surgical pathology at Kuopio University Hospital 2005-2007. Since 2009, she is professor in neuropathology at UU and she was clinical director of the department of pathology at UUH 2010-2016 and 2019-2021. Parallel she has been senior neuropathologist since 1996. 

Her major research interest is the aging related neurodegeneration that ultimately leads to severe cognitive decline. She has worked with human tissue and one of obstacles is poor availability of brain tissue due to the declining autopsies. Availability for surgical samples is also limited. She has written several publications on this topic. She has studied large cohorts of aged cognitively intact and impaired subjects both from Eastern Finland and Central Sweden to understand the complicity of the aging related neurodegeneration. Another issue of interest has been the need of standardization of diagnostic criteria in neurodegeneration and thus she was involved in Brain Net Europe activities for 10 years, a collaboration with neuropathologist within EU that led to several consensus papers. She has published some 270 peer-reviewed papers and several book chapters in the field of neuropathology.

Johannes Attems

Professor Johannes Attems’ research interest is neurodegenerative diseases of the ageing brain with a focus on clinico-neuropathological correlative studies. Despite the categorisation of age associated neurodegenerative diseases into specific subtypes, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body diseases, it becomes more and more apparent that the ageing brain is characterised by the presence of multiple pathologies. JA aims to evaluate the combined influence of these pathologies on the clinical syndrome as this might lead to the identification of new disease subtypes and thereby to the development of novel therapeutic strategies against age associated neurodegeneration.

JA is Professor of Neuropathology at Newcastle University, Honorary Consultant Pathologist at Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle and Director of the Newcastle Brain Tissue Resource. He is Editor in Chief of Acta Neuropathologica and leads the Neurodegenerative Pathology Research Group.

Per Borghammer

Per Borghammer is a professor of Nuclear Medicine & Neuroscience, Medical Faculty of Aarhus University. He specializes in clinical imaging of neurodegenerative disorders - especially Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Borghammer’s research involves understanding the early and prodromal phase of Parkinson’s disease (PD). His research focuses mainly on the etiopathogenesis of PD, in particular the prion-like spreading of alpha-synuclein and whether PD in some cases originates in the peripheral autonomic nervous system. Dr. Borghammer employs a highly multi-disciplinary approach, including in depth characterization of patient cohorts using multi-modality imaging, histological studies of archived patient tissues, epidemiological studies, and mechanistic studies in experimental animal models of PD. In addition, his group is developing a range of PET tracers and other objective imaging markers to study non-motor dysfunction in PD. Most notably, he pioneered the development of novel PET imaging techniques to quantify the loss of parasympathetic innervation to internal organs and recently proposed the brain-first vs. body-first model of Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Borghammer’s research is funded by the Lundbeck foundation, Michael J. Fox Foundation, Danish Research Council, and Danish Parkinson Association.

Masafumi Ihara

Dr. Masafumi Ihara is a Director of Neurology, National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center (NCVC), Osaka, Japan. He graduated from Kyoto University School of Medicine in 1995. He received clinical training at Kyoto University Hospital in 1995 and Nishi-Kobe Medical Center in 1995-1999. In 1999 he entered Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine and completed a PhD in Neuroscience in 2003. He received his neuropathological training under supervision of Prof. Kalaria in Newcastle University, UK during 2006-2008.

He led a neurovascular research group as an assistant professor of Department of Neurology in Kyoto University (2008-2012) and as a deputy director of Department of Regenerative Medicine Research in Institute of Biomedical Research and Innovation, Kobe (2012-2013). Since he moved to the current Institute in 2013, his research interests have focused on the pathological changes in brain blood vessels and how the alterations impact on brain health during old age. He is a Fellow of the Japanese Society of Neurology, of the American College of Physicians (FACP), and of the American Heart Association (FAHA). Dr. Ihara is involved in a multitude of research projects including a clinical trial using adrenomedullin for CADASIL (AMCAD trial) and cilostazol for mild cognitive impairment (COMCID trial).

Gabor G. Kovacs

Gabor G. Kovacs MD PhD is Professor of Neuropathology and Neurology at the University of Toronto. He is Consultant Neuropathologist and Neurologist at the University Health Network (UHN) and a Principal Investigator at the Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Disease. Dr. Kovacs is the Co-Director of the Rossy Program for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Research.

Dr. Kovacs completed his medical training at the Semmelweis University (Budapest, Hungary) where he specialized in Neurology and Neuropathology and obtained a PhD in Neuroscience. From 2004 to 2007, he was the Head of the Department of Neuropathology at the National Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology in Budapest, Hungary. From 2007 to 2019, he was an Associate Professor at the Institute of Neurology at the Medical University of Vienna, Austria. He was the leader of the Hungarian (2004-2019) and Austrian (2011-2019) Reference Center for Human Prion Diseases. Dr. Kovacs has also trained at Indiana University (2007) and University of Pennsylvania (2016 and 2017) as a visiting professor/scholar.

His major research interest is the neuropathology of neurodegenerative diseases to identify early biomarkers and therapy targets. His achievements include first descriptions, characterization and pathogenic elucidation of several poorly recognized neurological diseases, including frontotemporal dementia with globular glial inclusions and ageing-related tau-astrogliopathy (ARTAG). He coordinated a study and described the sequential distribution of tau pathology in progressive supranuclear palsy, which allows staging of disease. In addition, Dr. Kovacs has made fundamental descriptions and advances in the pathogenic, genetic, neuropathologic and epidemiologic studies on human tau, alpha-synuclein and prion protein- diseases. He has published more than 350 peer-reviewed papers and edited three books on Neuropathology.

Maria Lehtinen

Maria Lehtinen is Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School and the Hannah C. Kinney, MD, Chair, in Pediatric Pathology Research Boston Children’s Hospital. Her research focuses on the mechanisms by which the choroid plexus, an important brain barrier and producer of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), contributes to brain development and lifelong brain health.

Dr. Lehtinen received her Ph.D. in Neurobiology from Harvard University where she trained with Dr. Azad Bonni on molecular mechanisms regulating neuronal survival and death. She joined Anna-Elina Lehesjoki’s lab for her early postdoctoral work at the University of Helsinki, where she investigated inherited neurologic disorders enriched in the Finnish population including progressive myoclonus epilepsy. Lehtinen carried out further postdoctoral training with Dr. Christopher A. Walsh at Harvard, where they found that secreted factors in the CSF play active roles in instructing the development and health of the mammalian brain.

Dr. Lehtinen established her own laboratory at Boston Children’s Hospital in 2012, where she has taken an interdisciplinary and translational approach to study the choroid plexus-CSF-system in the brain. Lab members have a broad range of interests, ranging from neurodevelopmental disorders and mental health conditions to age-associated neurologic diseases.

Melissa E. Murray

Dr. Melissa E. Murray, Ph.D., holds the position of Professor in the Department of Neuroscience with a joint appointment in Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at Mayo Clinic in Florida. She leads the Translational Neuropathology laboratory, where her groundbreaking work earned her the distinguished title of Investigator of the Year in 2022.

Dr. Murray has pioneered research on the neuropathologic underpinnings of Alzheimer's disease (AD) heterogeneity and biomarker changes. As Co-Director of the Mayo Clinic brain bank, she has played a crucial role in spearheading various initiatives aimed at modernizing neuropathology. These efforts involve leveraging digital pathology and artificial intelligence to objectively identify and measure neuropathologic lesions.

Currently, Dr. Murray leads or co-leads two R01 grants and two Neuropathology Cores from NIA focused on young-onset AD, tau positron emission tomography, and APOE neurobiology. Dr. Murray has an H-index of 68 on Scopus and has published more than 240 scientific papers, with the majority of her studies centered on identifying the clinicopathologic and biomarker characteristics of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.

Liisa Myllykangas

Liisa Myllykangas works as an Associate Professor of Neuropathology and Chief Consultant at the University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital. Her research focuses on neuropathology and genetics of neurodegenerative disorders.

Dr. Myllykangas carried out her M.D. and Ph.D. studies and neuropathology residency at the University of Helsinki, where she was supervised by Drs. Matti Haltia, Pentti Tienari and Anders Paetau. As part of her PhD, focused on the population-based Vantaa 85+ study, she worked for a year in Dr.  John Hardy’s laboratory at Mayo Clinic Jacksonville. Dr. Myllykangas carried out postdoctoral training on Drosophila models of neurodegeneration at Harvard Medical School with Dr. Mel Feany, after which she established her own group at the University of Helsinki.

Dr. Myllykangas’s research portfolio comprises of neuropathological, genetic and experimental studies on various neurological diseases. Her group’s work on the population-based Vantaa 85+ cohort has made significant contributions to our knowledge of the brain pathology of the oldest old population. In addition, her group has identified gene defects of > 10 familial forms of neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular disorders, including novel alpha-synuclein and COL4A1 mutations. Currently, the group's main interest is in novel forms and subtypes of common dementia disorders.

Pete Nelson

Pete Nelson is a clinically active experimental neuropathologist and leader of the University of Kentucky Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center Neuropathology Core. Pete's PhD work was in Dr. Clifford Saper’s lab focused on an animal model of tau neurofibrillary pathology – tau tangles in aged sheep brains.  Pete was trained by Dr. John Trojanowski and Zissimos Mourelatos at University of Pennsylvania (where he did residency, fellowship, and post-doc).

Pete's subsequent work at the University of Kentucky has provided insights about studying the associative impact of pathology in the aged brain, and how genetics may play a role in neurodegenerative diseases. For all that, a basic focus is on harmonizing neuropathologic diagnoses with the (often complex) set of brain changes that are associated with dementia in aging.  Pete contributed to key papers on limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy (LATE), primary age-related tauopathy (PART), Lewy body diseases, age-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG), and brain arteriolosclerosis -- as well as consensus papers on the neuropathologic diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.  Grappling with the complexity of these dementia-driving conditions is probably a necessary prerequisite to generating successful treatment strategies.

Jacob Vogel

Dr. Jacob Vogel is an Assistant Professor at Department of Clinical Sciences Malmö, SciLifeLab, Lund University, supported by the SciLifeLab & Wallenberg National Program for Data-Driven Life Science. Dr. Vogel’s training involved work as a research technician at the University of California, Berkeley with Dr. William Jagust, a PhD at McGill University with Dr. Alan Evans, and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania with Dr. Theodore Satterthwaite.

Dr. Vogel applies computational and statistical modeling approaches to human imaging and multiomic data to better understand the genesis and progression of neurodegenerative diseases. A major focus of Dr. Vogel’s work involves characterization of individual differences in disease expression. While Dr. Vogel’s work in this domain has primarily focused on Alzheimer’s disease pathology, especially tau, his focus has recently expanded to characterization of frontotemporal dementia and synucleinopathies. Dr. Vogel also has a keen interest in understanding what factors contribute to selective vulnerability (or resilience) of brain tissue to certain pathologies. Many of these research pursuits are achieved through the wrangling, aggregation and fusion of large datasets, with a focus on reproducibility and synthesis of complementary information.  

David Wolk

Dr. David Wolk is Professor of Neurology, Chief of the Division of Cognitive Neurology, Director of the National Institute of Aging funded Penn Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, and Co-Director of the Penn Institute on Aging.

Dr. Wolk’s primary clinical interest has been in the diagnosis and care of individuals with a variety of neurodegenerative conditions.  His research has focused on the cognitive neuroscience of memory decline associated with aging and Alzheimer’s Disease using techniques including behavioral testing, structural and functional MRI, and FDG and molecular PET imaging. Much of this work is also directed at examining biomarkers, including behavioral and neuroimaging, that differentiate healthy aging from the earliest transition to AD and their potential role in understanding disease mechanisms and incorporation into treatment trials. Dr. Wolk has had sustained NIH support since 2003 and has been the principal or co-investigator on numerous local, national and international studies, including therapeutic trials.

Dr. Wolk completed his medical training at Johns Hopkins University, a Neurology residency at the University of Pennsylvania, and clinical Fellowship training in Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School; where he also completed a post-doctoral research fellowship studying memory in Alzheimer’s Disease. Amongst a number of honors, he is the recipient of the American Academy of Neurology’s Norman Geschwind Prize in Behavioral Neurology.