Official Bio

Dr. Quiroz is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, MA. She is the Director of the MGH Familial Dementia Neuroimaging Lab and the Multicultural Alzheimer’s Prevention Program-MAPP. She earned her master’s degree in cognitive neuroscience and PhD in clinical psychology from Boston University. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in neuropsychology and brain imaging of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) at MGH. Her research interests include brain imaging, genomics, early detection and preclinical biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

She is the principal investigator of the Colombia-Boston (COLBOS) longitudinal biomarker study of autosomal-dominant Alzheimer’s disease, which follows individuals from the world’s largest extended family with a single, AD-causing mutation (E280A in Presenilin1). Dr. Quiroz’s research has focused on characterizing biological and physiological changes that may predispose individuals to develop memory loss or dementia later in life. Her work has already provided evidence of brain abnormalities in cognitively-intact individuals at high risk for AD, decades before their clinical onset. Her findings have helped the field to re-conceptualize Alzheimer as a sequence of changes that begins decades before cognitive decline, and which may be targeted by promising disease-slowing treatments at a time in which they might have their most profound effect.  Dr. Quiroz’s work has been recognized with several awards, including an NIH Director’s Early Independence Award, the FABBS Foundation Early Career Impact Award, the MGH Research Scholar Award and the 2020 Alzheimer’s Association Inge Grundke-Iqbal Award for Alzheimer’s Research.

Unofficial Bio

Dr. Quiroz earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Antioquia in Colombia (South America) in 2000. She joined Dr. Francisco Lopera’s neuroscience research group when she was a junior in college, and since then she has been working with families with autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease. She went to La Havana, Cuba to complete her senior honors thesis with Dr. Maria Antonieta Bobes at the Centro de Neurociencias, which was recognized in 2001 by the Interamerican Society of Psychology with an award for best research conducted by an undergraduate student. In 2003 she moved to Boston with her husband to pursue graduate education, and was accepted into the master’s program in psychology at Boston University in 2004 where she learned to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to understand how different types of memory were represented in the normal brain. This experience solidified her decision to pursue a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience. 

After graduating from the master’s program, Dr. Quiroz enrolled in the Brain, Behavior and Cognition PhD program at Boston University. She worked with Dr. Chantal Stern in the Center for Memory and Brain in the Department of Psychology where she received a fellowship award (Clara Mayo Fellowship) to apply fMRI methods for the study of familial Alzheimer’s disease. With that fellowship, she was able to pioneer the establishment of fMRI methodologies in the city of Medellin (Colombia), her hometown, and was able to conduct the first fMRI/ MRI studies with the Colombian families with AD. She also established scientific collaborations with the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Arizona, and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She began an ambitious series of projects in which she collaborated with two US psychiatrists, Dr. Eric Reiman and Dr. Pierre Tariot from the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, to optimize the use of neuroimaging methods for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and bring clinical trials to families with familial forms of AD in Colombia. She served as a liaison between the Colombian and American research teams during the early years of the project conceptualization. In this capacity, she helped the teams to overcome cultural barriers, educated families in Colombia about the possible benefits and risks involved in a clinical trial, and advised the Colombian team on ethical issues related to the conduct of research with vulnerable populations. This work culminated in several successful research publications and contributed to the launching of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative (API) and a clinical trial that promises to unveil key aspects of our understanding of AD prevention and provide an essential test to the amyloid hypothesis.  

After three years of graduate training in the Brain, Behavior and Cognition Ph.D. program, Dr. Quiroz decided to transfer to the Clinical Psychology Program at the same institution. Soon after her transfer, she received a Kirschstein-NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (F31) from the NINDS to expand her work in Colombia and add novel imaging methods and blood biomarkers to her research.  

After completing her graduate studies, Dr. Quiroz was awarded a highly competitive NIH Director’s Pioneer Early Independence Award (DP5), a 5-year grant from the Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, which allowed her to skip her formal postdoctoral training and launch her independent lab, the MGH Familial Dementia Neuroimaging Lab, and the Colombia-Boston (COLBOS) Biomarker Study at MGH. Since establishing her lab, Dr. Quiroz has made seminal contributions to our understanding of preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, and has published over 80 papers, including several as senior author.

Yakeel Quiroz (Harvard Medical School)