Roberta Diaz Brinton

Center for Innovation in Brain Science
University of Arizona

By Valerie Vinyard

Roberta Diaz Brinton has spent decades studying the intricacies of the female brain. 

She and her team are discovering important ways to combat diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. 

As a regents professor and director of University of Arizona’s Center for Innovation in Brain Science, Brinton is a pioneering neuroscientist in the field of Alzheimer’s, the aging female brain and regenerative therapeutics. The three-time UArizona graduate was just awarded Alumni of the Year for her groundbreaking work.

“It takes the right team, and I’m thrilled to say that we have that here,” said Brinton.

Before UArizona, Brinton was based at University of Southern California where she was the chair of therapeutic discovery and development and professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences, as well as professor of neurology and biomedical engineering. 

When UArizona tried to lure her back to Tucson, it wasn’t an easy sell. Brinton reflected on what it would take to get her. The answer soon revealed itself.

“In the 21st century, there is not a single cure for a single neurodegenerative disease, and that is our mission,” she said. 

The Center for Innovation in Brain Science works to advance evidence-based clinical care of brain disorders caused by disease, genetics or trauma. The center focuses on research across the spectrum of brain disorders and the emerging area of brain and cognitive development.

“Dr. Brinton has dedicated her career to unraveling the complexities of Alzheimer’s disease, with a special emphasis on the female aging brain,” said Fei Yin, associate professor in UArizona’s department of pharmacology and assistant director of translational neuroscience at the center. 

“Her efforts have significantly advanced our understanding of why women are disproportionately affected by this devastating disease and have opened new avenues for personalized medicine.”

Brinton has been working to determine why. 

She and her team have found that the transition to menopause unmasks the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and that estrogen therapy promotes and sustains brain health. Other studies are in the works and they’re currently recruiting volunteers for a Phase 2 study on hot flashes.

“We have very different backgrounds and skill sets, but Robbie’s philosophy has always been that together we know a lot,” said Kathleen Rodgers, a pharmacology professor and associate director at the center. “It is that type of team science and leadership that has made her the internationally recognized scientist she is today.  Her contributions are vast and impactful.”

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