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Neuropsychologist Joins Cedars-Sinai Dementia Care Team

Mitzi Gonzales, PhD, to Treat Patients With Memory Disorders and Lead Research Into Lifelong Brain Health

Mitzi Gonzales, PhD, a board-certified neuropsychologist, has joined Cedars-Sinai as director of Translational Research in the Jona Goldrich Center for Alzheimer’s and Memory Disorders in the Department of Neurology at Cedars-Sinai. She will treat patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias as well as lead research programs aimed at preserving cognition across the lifespan. Mitzi Gonzales, PhD

“Dr. Gonzales will be instrumental in strengthening our research infrastructure that follows individuals through the cognitive continuum so that we can more fully understand the biology of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Zaldy Tan, MD, MPH, medical director of the Jona Goldrich Center for Alzheimer’s and Memory Disorders. “She will also help us expand our research diversity so that our discoveries more closely represent the broad spectrum of communities we serve.”

Gonzales is also part of the Center for Translational Geroscience at Cedars-Sinai, a multidisciplinary effort that focuses on preventing age-related disease and improving health and wellness for older adults.

“Innovative research and integrated clinical care are key to our mission to enable a life free from significant disease or disability,” said Sara Espinoza, MD, director of the Center for Translational Geroscience. “Dr. Gonzales’ neuropsychology background and expertise in research and patient care will be an important contribution to these efforts.”

Neuropsychologists study how the biology of the brain and nervous system relate to behavior and cognition. 

“Biology is extremely important to our cognitive trajectory in life and whether we decline faster as we age,” Gonzales said. “But our environment is also crucial in shaping synaptic plasticity—the ability of our brain cells to form new connections—throughout the lifespan. My interest is in exploring the role of biology and environment in age-related brain changes.” 

Gonzales comes to Cedars-Sinai from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, where she was an assistant professor in the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases and the Department of Neurology. She earned her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. She completed her pre-doctoral internship at the University of Illinois at Chicago and postdoctoral fellowship in clinical neuropsychology at the VA Northern California Health Care system.

Nancy Sicotte, MD“A multidisciplinary approach is critical for diagnosing and treating complex neurodegenerative disorders,” said Nancy Sicotte, MD, chair of the Department of Neurology at Cedars-Sinai. “As the Jona Goldrich Center for Alzheimer’s and Memory Disorders and the Center for Translational Geroscience continue to grow, the addition of clinician-scientists such as Dr. Gonzales puts us in the best possible position to offer innovative memory care to our patients.” 

Gonzales finds patient care an important element in her work.

“I love the fact that neuropsychology offers me the opportunity to work directly with individuals grappling with the changes associated with cognitive decline, and to conduct research that moves the science forward and brings better care to these patients,” Gonzales said. “That one-on-one patient contact keeps the urgency of the work that we're doing in focus.”

Gonzales helps patients and families understand the opportunity presented by clinical trials and the need for long-term planning to ensure that patients’ wishes are communicated and the necessary supports are in place to accommodate changes that might be on the horizon.

“I tell patients and families that this is going to be a journey together,” Gonzales said, “and I try to always give a message of hope.”

She predicts significant innovation and transformation in the landscape of Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and treatment over the next decade.

“One of the most exciting developments that I think will come to full fruition within the next few years is the validation of an inexpensive blood-based screening test for Alzheimer's disease,” Gonzales said. “This will help us engage people in research at earlier stages, before disease symptoms show up, and to detect very early changes that might lead to new therapeutic targets.”

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: How to Help a Loved One With Alzheimer’s or Dementia