Willa Brenowitz, PhD, MPH, is an epidemiologist investigating potentially modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and related dementias. Much of her current research focuses on evaluating the relationships between sensory impairments (e.g., hearing and vision loss) and dementia in older adults.
Dr. Brenowitz is broadly interested in how psychosocial factors, genetics, and health conditions intersect across the life course to impact brain aging. She has led and collaborated on projects funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Alzheimer’s Association.
Dr. Brenowitz’s research combines traditional epidemiologic approaches with novel statistical methods to improve causal inference from observational data. A secondary aim of her work is to leverage quasi-experimental designs and Mendelian randomization studies to better tease apart factors that cause dementia from those that are markers of preclinical AD.
Dr. Brenowitz earned her MPH in health services and PhD in epidemiology from the University of Washington, working at the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center. She joined the University of California, San Francisco, as a postdoctoral scholar and was an assistant professor prior to joining CHR.
Selected Current Studies
- Sensory Impairments, Cognitive Decline, and Dementia: What Explains the Association? (NIA)
- Brenowitz WD, Yaffe K. Observational studies in Alzheimer disease: bridging preclinical studies and clinical trials. Nat Rev Neurol. 2022 Dec;18(12):747-757. doi: 10.1038/s41582-022-00733-7. Epub 2022 Oct 31. PMID: 36316487; PMCID: PMC9894623.
- Brenowitz WD, Robbins NM, Strotmeyer ES, Yaffe K. Associations of Lower Extremity Peripheral Nerve Impairment and Risk of Dementia in Black and White Older Adults. Neurology. 2022 May 3;98(18):e1837-e1845. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200185.
- Brenowitz WD, Zeki Al Hazzouri A, Vittinghoff E, Golden SH, Fitzpatrick AL, Yaffe K. Depressive Symptoms Imputed Across the Life Course Are Associated with Cognitive Impairment and Cognitive Decline. J Alzheimers Dis. 2021;83(3):1379-1389. doi: 10.3233/JAD-210588. PMID: 34420969; PMCID: PMC9095065.
- Brenowitz WD, Zimmerman SC, Filshtein TJ, Yaffe K, Walter S, Hoffmann TJ, Jorgenson E, Whitmer RA, Glymour MM. Extension of Mendelian Randomization to Identify Earliest Manifestations of Alzheimer Disease: Association of Genetic Risk Score for Alzheimer Disease With Lower Body Mass Index by Age 50 Years. Am J Epidemiol. 2021 Oct 1;190(10):2163-2171. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwab103. PMID: 33843952; PMCID: PMC8576370.
- Brenowitz WD, Kaup AR, Yaffe K. Incident dementia and faster rates of cognitive decline are associated with worse multisensory function summary scores. Alzheimers Dement. 2020 Oct;16(10):1384-1392. doi: 10.1002/alz.12134. Epub 2020 Jul 12. PMID: 32657033; PMCID: PMC7901640.
- Brenowitz WD, Manly JJ, Murchland AR, Nguyen TT, Liu SY, Glymour MM, Levine DA, Crowe M, Hohman TJ, Dufouil C, Launer LJ, Hedden T, Eng CW, Wadley VG, Howard VJ. State School Policies as Predictors of Physical and Mental Health: A Natural Experiment in the REGARDS Cohort. Am J Epidemiol. 2020 May 5;189(5):384-393. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwz221. PMID: 31595946; PMCID: PMC7306678.
- Brenowitz WD, Hubbard RA, Keene CD, Hawes SE, Longstreth WT Jr, Woltjer RL, Kukull WA. Mixed neuropathologies and estimated rates of clinical progression in a large autopsy sample. Alzheimers Dement. 2017 Jun;13(6):654-662. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2016.09.015. Epub 2016 Nov 19. PMID: 27870939; PMCID: PMC5438283.
- Brenowitz WD, Monsell SE, Schmitt FA, Kukull WA, Nelson PT. Hippocampal sclerosis of aging is a key Alzheimer's disease mimic: clinical-pathologic correlations and comparisons with both alzheimer's disease and non-tauopathic frontotemporal lobar degeneration. J Alzheimers Dis. 2014;39(3):691-702. doi: 10.3233/JAD-131880. PMID: 24270205; PMCID: PMC3946156.