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Yakeel Quiroz, PhD

Yakeel Quiroz is an associate professor in the departments of psychiatry and neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. She currently serves as director of the MGH Familial Dementia Neuroimaging Lab and the Multicultural Alzheimer’s Prevention Program. In her research, she uses multimodal neuroimaging methods, including PET and fMRI, and integrates genetics, biofluids and neuropsychological data to examine some of the earliest changes associated with the risk or protection for Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Quiroz is principal investigator on the COLBOS (COLombia-BOSton) biomarker study that follows individuals from the world’s largest extended family with a single, Alzheimer’s-causing mutation (E280A in Presenilin1). This was the first study to show that tau pathology was evident in the brains of cognitively unimpaired individuals with autosomal dominant AD, several years before onset of symptoms. It demonstrated for the first time that brain amyloidosis was necessary for the initiation of tau pathology in these individuals. 

Under the auspices of her COLBOS study, Quiroz assessed a mutation carrier from the Colombian kindred who remained resistant to Alzheimer’s dementia for nearly 30 years after her estimated age at clinical onset. She had two copies of a rare APOE variant (i.e., APOE3 Christchurch mutation), the highest amyloid plaque deposition in the kindred, and relative sparing of downstream biomarker effects. 

In related experimental studies, Quiroz’s group demonstrated that the Christchurch mutation may protect against AD by limiting tau pathology and neurodegeneration in the face of high amyloid pathology, which has opened new avenues for Alzheimer’s research and treatment.

Her findings have helped researchers re-conceptualize Alzheimer’s as a sequence of changes that begins decades before cognitive decline, and which may be targeted by promising disease-slowing treatments and prevention strategies at a time in which they might have their most profound effect. 

Quiroz earned her master’s in cognitive neuroscience in 2006 and her PhD in clinical psychology in 2013, both from Boston University. She joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital in 2015.

Quiroz has been recognized broadly for her research, including with the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award, an MGH Research Scholar Award and the Alzheimer’s Association’s Inge Grundke-Iqbal Award for Alzheimer’s Research.

Director, Familial Dementia Neuroimaging Lab and Director, Multicultural Alzheimer's Prevention Program, MGH;

Paul B. and Sandra M. Edgerley MGH Research Scholar;

Associate Professor, HMS

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