When: Friday, 12 November 2021

Where:  Virtual
                    In-person at The Hilton Niagara Falls Hotel
1:00PM to 2:30PM


Cognition is one of the major predictors of day-to-day functional ability, and new strategies for protecting against cognitive decline and impairment are urgently needed in a comprehensive public health framework.   


The WHO Global action plan on the public health response to dementia 2017-2025 recognises dementia as a public health priority and aims to improve the lives of people with dementia, their families and carers, while decreasing the impact of dementia on communities and countries.


Cognitive Reserve is critical to this framework and refers to a human capacity to decouple cognitive function from the accumulation of brain pathology that is so common as we age.  It can be built up by voluntary and involuntary exposure to stimulatory environments throughout the lifespan.  It is very likely to have contributed to one of the medical triumphs of our generation: a 20-40% decrease in age-adjusted dementia prevalence and incidence over the last two to three decades in some developed countries.  

Secular improvements in Cognitive Reserve determining factors such as schooling, higher education and occupational patterns are likely to contribute (amongst other factors) but have evolved in an unplanned way.  Understanding and utilising these developments is critical as the greatest growth in dementia burden is yet to come and will occur in lower- and middle-income countries.

Cognitive decline is not inevitable in later life and by extension, there is a public health responsibility to help move people ‘up’ a trajectory class.


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Moderator and Panelists

Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD, PhD

Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School

Senior Scientist, Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research, Hebrew SeniorLife

Medical Director, Deanna and Sidney Wolk Center for Memory Health at Hebrew SeniorLife

Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD, PhD, is a Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, and a Senior Scientist at the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife (HSL).

Dr. Pascual–Leone is an international leader in the study and modulation of human cortical plasticity and a pioneer in the use of noninvasive brain stimulation and its application for the study of brain behavior relations and the development of diagnostic and therapeutic interventions in neuropsychiatry. An overarching goal has been the development of translational approaches to characterize and modulate brain activity to help patients with debilitating neuropsychiatric disorders while gaining fundamental insights into human brain function.

A major focus of Dr. Pascual-Leone’s research is on maintenance of brain health across the lifespan. Dr. Pascual-Leone brought together a group of international investigators and funding partners to establish the Barcelona Brain Health Initiative (www.bbhi.cat) – a multiyear, longitudinal effort supported by La Caixa and Institut Guttmann, that aims at identifying markers of brain health across the lifespan and developing and testing multimodal interventions and lifestyle changes that sustain brain health and prevent age-related cognitive decline. Dr. Pascual-Leone leads this one-of-a-kind study as its scientific director.

At HSL, Dr. Pascual-Leone also sees patients as a cognitive neurologist and dementia specialist in the Center for Memory Health, where the focus is on comprehensive, patient-centered, personalized care and multi-disciplinary, holistic support of individuals with cognitive decline, their families and caregivers.

Dr. Pascual-Leone established and directs the Sidney Baer Jr. Fellowship in Clinical Neurosciences, training the future leaders of medical brain sciences, working in the interface of neurology and psychiatry. He also established and directs a training program in noninvasive brain stimulation that has trained over 1,000 clinicians from around the world.

Previously, Dr. Pascual-Leone founded and directed for over 20 years the Berenson-Allen Center for Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation, and served as Chief of the Division of Cognitive Neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and as the Associate Dean of Clinical and Translational Research and Program Director of Harvard Catalyst at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Pascual-Leone has authored over 750 scientific papers and several books and is listed as an inventor on several patents. His work is highly regarded for its innovation and quality and is highly cited (h-index 165; i10-index 626). Dr. Pascual-Leone has been recognized by Thomson Reuters as a one of the world’s top 15 neuroscientists, and one of the “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds”. He has been honored with many international awards, and is an elected member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Science (Pharmacy). His work has also gained wide general public appeal and outreach through dissemination in the lay press, television and radio, and several books (e.g. Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself; and John E. Robison’s Switched On). Most recently Dr. Pascual-Leone co-authored, with A. Fernandez and D. Bartres-Faz, El Cerebro que Cura (2019).

Sarah Lenz Lock

Senior Vice President for Policy and Brain Health in AARP’s Policy, Research, and International Affairs (PRI), and Executive Director, Global Council on Brain Health

Ms. Lock leads AARP’s policy initiatives on brain health and care for people living with dementia, including serving as the Executive Director of the Global Council on Brain Health, an independent collaborative of scientists, doctors, and policy experts.  Ms. Lock also coordinates AARP’s role in the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations. 

From 2007 to June 2018 she directed the Office of Policy Development and Integration, where she led the office responsible for the development of AARP’s public policies.  Previously, Ms. Lock was Senior Attorney/Manager at AARP Foundation Litigation conducting health care impact litigation on behalf of older persons.  She has authored numerous amicus briefs in appellate courts all over the country on health care issues impacting older Americans. 

Sarah is a member of the American Society on Aging and the National Academy of Social Insurance. Sarah serves on the Dementia Friendly America National Council and the Health and Aging Policy Fellow Program National Advisory Board Member.   She formerly served as a Commissioner for the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging and on the HHS Administration on Community Living Aging and Cognitive Health Technical Expert Advisory Board.

Prior to joining AARP, Sarah served as a Trial Attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice. Sarah began her career as a Legislative Assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives to Congressman Michael D. Barnes working with the Federal Government Service Task Force, and worked at the law firm of Arent, Fox, Kintner, Plotkin & Kahn. 

Ms. Lock received a B.A. from Franklin and Marshall College, and a J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law where she was a member of the law review.

Professor Michael Valenzuela

School of Psychiatry and Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, University of New South Wales

Professor Valenzuela is a pioneer of healthy brain ageing, his contributions spanning basic science, digital and biomedical innovation, neuroimaging, clinical trials, public health and scientific communication with the general public.

He is a Senior Consultant to the World Health Organization, Co-Founder and Chief Scientist of Skin2Neuron, and Visiting Professor at the School of Psychiatry and Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

He has a career interest in Cognitive Reserve, contributing mechanistic and epidemiologic insights as well as one of the most widely-used and translated assessment tools (Lifetime of Experiences Questionnaire). He developed the Brain Training System and invented the LOGOS automated memory technology for Maintain Your Brain, the world’s largest dementia prevention trial. Currently, he is pioneering a new field of voice-based biomarkers of dementia risk, and contributes to international health policy including for the WHO Integrated Care for Older People (ICOPE) implementation program.

He is also primary inventor of new technology for the manufacture of neurons from the human hair follicle, and led preclinical studies over a 10-year period that found these cells may be effective for treating neuronal and synaptic loss. On the basis of this intellectual property he co-founded Skin2Neuron, a new Australian biotech company that is taking this concept forward to human clinical trial for the first time in 2023.

Professor Valenzuela has been honoured with several awards, including the Australian Museum’s Eureka Prize for Medicine and a National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia Excellence Award. He is the author of a popular science book (Maintain Your Brain), co-developer of two apps (BrainyAppHelp!App) and published over 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers cited more than 10,000 times.

Miia Kivipelto, MD, PhD

Professor in Clinical Geriatrics at Karolinska Institutet (KI), Center for Alzheimer Research and Senior Geriatrician and Director for Research & Development of Theme Aging at Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.

Part of her Nordic Brain Network multidisciplinary research team (around 100 researchers and clinical staff) is located at University of Eastern Finland and Imperial College London, UK, where she has part time position as Professor. Her frontline research findings have been published in leading journals (320+ publications, H-index 75) and she has received numerous prestigious national and international awards.

Dr. Kivipelto’s translational research focuses on the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of cognitive impairment, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Through epidemiological studies, Prof. Kivipelto has identified various lifestyle and vascular risk factors for dementia and interactions with genetic factors. She has developed the first tool for predicting dementia risk based on midlife risk profiles. This is still one of the few validated risk scores in the field, is in clinical use (including clinical trials), and now available also as a mobile app. These findings paved the way to the current prevention trials.

Professor Kivipelto is the PI of the landmark FINGER Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) (Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability), which is the first large-scale trial showing that a multi-domain lifestyle based intervention can reduce the risk of cognitive impairment among at risk persons from general population (Lancet 2015). FINGER has caused a paradigm shift, i.e. cognitive decline is no longer an inevitable consequence of aging, but can be prevented with multidomain interventions. This pragmatic model is now tested and adapted worldwide. Based on these collaborations, Professor Kivipelto has launched the World Wide FINGERS Initiative (Alzheimer’s & Dementia 2020), a unique interdisciplinary network to share experiences, harmonise data, and plan joint international initiatives for the prevention of cognitive impairment/dementia (30+ countries have already joined). She is also founder of the FINGERS Brain Health Institute (www.fbhi.se) aiming to find novel solutions to promote brain health and prevent cognitive impairment and dementia.           

Professor Kivipelto has also contributed to understanding biological mechanisms underlying AD, with studies in humans and animal models, as well as characterisation of biomarkers that can aid early diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment monitoring in AD. She is actively involved in phase I-III drug trials, and is co-leader of the EPAD Initiative (European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia), a European project aiming to establish readiness cohorts and develop a pan-European platform to deliver an adaptive trial for the secondary prevention of AD.

She has received numerous of prestigious awards, including the Ryman Prize, New Zealand (2020), Arthur C. Cherkin Award, USA (2019), Swedish Doctoral Union Alzheimer prize (2018), Neuroscientist of the Year (Finland, 2018), MetLife Foundation Major Award for Medical Research (2016), Swedish Alzheimer Research Foundation Major Award (2016), Waijlit and Eric Forsgren’s award for dementia researcher (2015), Best PI at KI award (2014) and AXA Research Award (2014), Karolinska Institutet Skandia’s Lennart Levi prize (2013), Junior Chamber International Award for Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World (2011), Academy of Finland Award for Social Impact (2009).

Professor Kivipelto is often invited to leading global dementia conferences and task forces, including the G8 Dementia Summit, OECD Mapping for big data in Alzheimer research, WHO ministerial meeting in Global actions against dementia and WHO dementia risk reduction guidelines and mDementia working groups and Neurology & Covid-19 Global Forum, among others.