Willa Brenowitz, PhD, MPH

Core Faculty

I am an epidemiologist and am broadly interested in understanding factors that contribute to brain aging. I am especially interested in the role of multimorbidity in cognitive decline, as well as the intersection of genetic, psychosocial, and health factors across the lifecourse. I am also interested in using novel statistical and epidemiologic approaches to study AD and other chronic diseases in aging.

Much of my current research focuses on the relationship between sensory impairments (e.g. hearing and vision loss) and dementia in older adults. Sensory health is underappreciated but an emerging area of research importance, sensory impairments are potential risk factors for dementia, and sensory and cognitive function are closely linked biologically. There is a need for understanding the impact of sensory impairments and the link with dementia in diverse aging populations.

I use both traditional epidemiologic approaches as well as alternative approaches to enhance causal inference. I am especially interested in quasi experimental designs and instrumental variable analysis including Mendelian randomization. Such alternative study design offer opportunities to better understand early AD etiology and tease apart mechanisms that may contribute or be a marker of AD and brain aging.

I welcome student involvement and am interested in training the next generation of researchers, please feel free to contact me to discuss further.


Associations Between Handgrip Strength and Dementia Risk, Cognition, and Neuroimaging Outcomes in the UK Biobank Cohort Study.

JAMA network open

Duchowny KA, Ackley SF, Brenowitz WD, Wang J, Zimmerman SC, Caunca MR, Glymour MM

Examining the Combined Estimated Effects of Hearing Loss and Depressive Symptoms on Risk of Cognitive Decline and Incident Dementia.

The journals of gerontology. Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences

Powell DS, Brenowitz WD, Yaffe K, Armstrong NM, Reed NS, Lin FR, Gross AL, Deal JA

Association of Genetic Variants Linked to Late-Onset Alzheimer Disease With Cognitive Test Performance by Midlife.

JAMA network open

Zimmerman SC, Brenowitz WD, Calmasini C, Ackley SF, Graff RE, Asiimwe SB, Staffaroni AM, Hoffmann TJ, Glymour MM

Associations of dual sensory impairment with incident mobility and ADL difficulty.

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

Armstrong NM, Vieira Ligo Teixeira C, Gendron C, Brenowitz WD, Lin FR, Swenor B, Deal JA, Simonsick EM, Jones RN

Does inflammation explain the link between multiple sensory impairment and dementia?.

Alzheimer's & Dementia

Willa D Brenowitz, Jennifer Ann Eastman, Yue Leng, Kristine Yaffe

Personal history of breast cancer, cognitive function, and conversion in women from the ADNI cohort.

Alzheimer's & Dementia

Jennifer Ann Eastman, Kristine Yaffe, Karla Kerlikowske, Willa D Brenowitz, Erica S Kornblith, Sabra Inslicht

Care Recipient Diagnosis Moderates the Relationship Between Caregiver Worry and Vigilance.

Innovation in Aging

Nicole Armstrong, Camila Vieira Ligo Teixeira, Willa Brenowitz, Bonnielin Swenor, Danielle Powell, Eleanor Simonsick, Richard Jones, Colby Gendron

Assessing bidirectional associations between cognitive impairment and late age-related macular degeneration in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2.

Alzheimer's & dementia : the journal of the Alzheimer's Association

Le JT, Agrón E, Keenan TDL, Clemons TE, Brenowitz WD, Yaffe K, Chew EY, AREDS2 Research Group

Current Alzheimer disease research highlights: evidence for novel risk factors.

Chinese medical journal

Brenowitz WD, Xiang Y, McEvoy CT, Yang C, Yaffe K, Le WD, Leng Y

Methods to Address Self-Selection and Reverse Causation in Studies of Neighborhood Environments and Brain Health.

International journal of environmental research and public health

Besser LM, Brenowitz WD, Meyer OL, Hoermann S, Renne J

Amyloid-PET imaging offers small improvements in predictions of future cognitive trajectories.

NeuroImage. Clinical

Ackley SF, Hayes-Larson E, Brenowitz WD, Swinnerton K, Mungas D, Fletcher E, Singh B, Whitmer RA, DeCarli C, Maria Glymour M



Vu TA, Fenwick EK, Gan AT, Man RE, Tan BK, Gupta P, Ho KC, Reyes-Ortiz CA, Trompet S, Gussekloo J, O'Brien JM, Mueller-Schotte S, Wong TY, Tham YC, Cheng CY, Lee AT, Rait G, Swenor BK, Varadaraj V, Brenowitz WD, Medeiros FA, Naël V, Narasimhalu K, Chen CL, Lamoureux EL

Effect of reductions in amyloid levels on cognitive change in randomized trials: instrumental variable meta-analysis.

BMJ (Clinical research ed.)

Ackley SF, Zimmerman SC, Brenowitz WD, Tchetgen Tchetgen EJ, Gold AL, Manly JJ, Mayeda ER, Filshtein TJ, Power MC, Elahi FM, Brickman AM, Glymour MM

Depressive Symptoms Imputed Across the Life Course Are Associated with Cognitive Impairment and Cognitive Decline.

Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD

Brenowitz WD, Zeki Al Hazzouri A, Vittinghoff E, Golden SH, Fitzpatrick AL, Yaffe K

Association Between Alzheimer Disease and Cancer With Evaluation of Study Biases: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.

JAMA network open

Ospina-Romero M, Glymour MM, Hayes-Larson E, Mayeda ER, Graff RE, Brenowitz WD, Ackley SF, Witte JS, Kobayashi LC

Genetic risk of Alzheimer's disease and sleep duration in non-demented elders.

Annals of neurology

Leng Y, Ackley SF, Glymour MM, Yaffe K, Brenowitz WD

Association of genetic risk for Alzheimer disease and hearing impairment.


Brenowitz WD, Filshtein TJ, Yaffe K, Walter S, Ackley SF, Hoffmann TJ, Jorgenson E, Whitmer RA, Glymour MM

Clinician judged hearing impairment and associations with neuropathologic burden.


Brenowitz WD, Besser LM, Kukull WA, Keene CD, Glymour MM, Yaffe K

Incident dementia and faster rates of cognitive decline are associated with worse multisensory function summary scores.

Alzheimer's & dementia : the journal of the Alzheimer's Association

Brenowitz WD, Kaup AR, Yaffe K

Dual sensory impairment in older adults and risk of dementia from the GEM Study.

Alzheimer's & dementia (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Hwang PH, Longstreth WT, Brenowitz WD, Thielke SM, Lopez OL, Francis CE, DeKosky ST, Fitzpatrick AL

Difficulty and help with activities of daily living among older adults living alone with cognitive impairment.

Alzheimer's & dementia : the journal of the Alzheimer's Association

Edwards RD, Brenowitz WD, Portacolone E, Covinsky KE, Bindman A, Glymour MM, Torres JM

State School Policies as Predictors of Physical and Mental Health: A Natural Experiment in the REGARDS Cohort.

American journal of epidemiology

Brenowitz WD, Manly JJ, Murchland AR, Xuan Nguyen TT, Liu SY, Glymour MM, Levine DA, Crowe M, Hohman TJ, Dufouil C, Launer LJ, Hedden T, Eng CW, Wadley VG, Howard VJ

Concordance of Clinical Alzheimer Diagnosis and Neuropathological Features at Autopsy.

Journal of neuropathology and experimental neurology

Gauthreaux K, Bonnett TA, Besser LM, Brenowitz WD, Teylan M, Mock C, Chen YC, Chan KCG, Keene CD, Zhou XH, Kukull WA

Intention to Screen for Alzheimer's Disease by Residential Locale.

International journal of environmental research and public health

Besser LM, Brenowitz WD, Park J, Tolea MI, Galvin JE

Estimating associations between antidepressant use and incident mild cognitive impairment in older adults with depression.

PloS one

Han F, Bonnett T, Brenowitz WD, Teylan MA, Besser LM, Chen YC, Chan G, Cao KG, Gao Y, Zhou XH

Life course biopsychosocial effects of retrospective childhood social support and later-life cognition.

Psychology and aging

Zahodne LB, Sharifian N, Manly JJ, Sumner JA, Crowe M, Wadley VG, Howard VJ, Murchland AR, Brenowitz WD, Weuve J

Reserve and Alzheimer's disease genetic risk: Effects on hospitalization and mortality.

Alzheimer's & dementia : the journal of the Alzheimer's Association

Filshtein TJ, Brenowitz WD, Mayeda ER, Hohman TJ, Walter S, Jones RN, Elahi FM, Glymour MM

Rate of Memory Change Before and After Cancer Diagnosis.

JAMA network open

Ospina-Romero M, Abdiwahab E, Kobayashi L, Filshtein T, Brenowitz WD, Mayeda ER, Glymour MM

Multiple sensory impairment is associated with increased risk of dementia among black and white older adults.

The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences

Brenowitz WD, Kaup AR, Lin FR, Yaffe K

Mixed neuropathologies and associations with domain-specific cognitive decline.


Brenowitz WD, Hubbard RA, Keene CD, Hawes SE, Longstreth WT, Woltjer RL, Kukull WA

Alzheimer's disease neuropathologic change, Lewy body disease, and vascular brain injury in clinic- and community-based samples.

Neurobiology of aging

Brenowitz WD, Keene CD, Hawes SE, Hubbard RA, Longstreth WT, Woltjer RL, Crane PK, Larson EB, Kukull WA

Mixed neuropathologies and estimated rates of clinical progression in a large autopsy sample.

Alzheimer's & dementia : the journal of the Alzheimer's Association

Brenowitz WD, Hubbard RA, Keene CD, Hawes SE, Longstreth WT, Woltjer RL, Kukull WA

Social relationships and risk of incident mild cognitive impairment in U.S. Alzheimer's disease centers.

Alzheimer disease and associated disorders

Brenowitz WD, Kukull WA, Beresford SA, Monsell SE, Williams EC

Body mass index, weight change, and clinical progression in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer disease.

Alzheimer disease and associated disorders

Besser LM, Gill DP, Monsell SE, Brenowitz W, Meranus DH, Kukull W, Gustafson DR

Arteriolosclerosis that affects multiple brain regions is linked to hippocampal sclerosis of ageing.

Brain : a journal of neurology

Neltner JH, Abner EL, Baker S, Schmitt FA, Kryscio RJ, Jicha GA, Smith CD, Hammack E, Kukull WA, Brenowitz WD, Van Eldik LJ, Nelson PT