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Lea Grinberg, MD, PhD

Associate Professor of Neurology and Pathology
UC San Francisco
UCSF Faculty Profile
Lab website
Key Areas: Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, neuropathology, admixed population, brainstem

By identifying risk factors for disease, we can intervene earlier and prevent the progression to disease, or at least, keep people healthy for longer.

Lea Grinberg’s research focuses on the threshold between normal brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases. To study this question, Grinberg leveraged the resources of the Sao Paulo Autopsy Service—a facility that conducts almost 15,000 autopsies per year—to create one of the few brain banks specializing in brain aging in a low and middle income country (LMIC). Grinberg and a multidisciplinary team of investigators used this population-based brain collection to show that vascular dementia, a preventable disease, is much more common than previously assumed in Brazil and likely in other LMICs. The team also showed that even one year of education lowers the risk of dementia, and African-decedents have different risk factors for dementia than Caucasians. These findings changed the perception of the underlying causes and risk factors for dementia in populations from LMICs, and they are helping to shape public policies and efforts to develop diagnostic tools and therapeutics tailored for these populations.

At UCSF, Grinberg continues her mission to understand the underlying causes of dementia by conducting translational research focused on the first signs of neurodegeneration in the brain and by creating imaging tools to detect these changes in patients in whom the disease is still in the silent stages. Furthermore, Grinberg is working to link neuropathology to clinical changes in order to improve diagnosis and identification of the different causes of dementia.

Grinberg is passionate about mentoring students of all levels. At GBHI, she welcomes Fellows into her lab so they can experience hands-on pathological studies and contributes to the selection committee.

Bio: Lea Grinberg is a neuropathologist with an interest in brain aging and associated disorders. She is an associate professor of neurology and pathology at the University of California, San Francisco, an affiliated professor of pathology at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, a visiting scientist in the computer department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, and the head of the Human Validation Core for the National Institutes of Health-funded Center Without Walls for Tau Biology. Grinberg’s contributions to the field of dementia include: identifying brainstem nuclei as the earliest structures affected in Alzheimer’s disease and translating these findings to diagnostic and treatment development; using high-resolution histology and sophisticated computing tools to validate multimodal neuroimaging findings; and participating in several international neuropathological consortia to establish neuropathological criteria for neurodegenerative diseases and vascular dementia.