Dr. Kristen Willeumier
Amen Clinics, Director of Research
Kristen Willeumier, PhD, is a clinical neuroscientist. She conducted her graduate research in the laboratory of Neurophysiology under the direction of Felix Schweitzer at the University of California, Los Angeles and the laboratory of Neurogenetics under the direction of Stefan Pulst at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center using live cell imaging to investigate mechanisms of synaptic signaling in Parkinson’s disease.
She received MS degrees in physiological science and neurobiology and a PhD degree in neurobiology from the University of California, Los Angeles. She was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where she continued her work in the field of neurodegenerative disease. She was the recipient of the prestigious NIH fellowship from the National Institute of Mental Health to study the molecular mechanisms underlying Parkinson’s disease and has presented her work at national and international scientific meetings including the Society for Neuroscience, Gordon Conference and the World Brain Mapping Conference.
Dr. Willeumier joined the Amen Clinics in 2009 to help advance the research mission of exploring how brain SPECT imaging can transform clinical practice. She has authored or co-authored 39 scientific manuscripts in peer reviewed journals. Areas of published research include traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit disorder, autism, biomarkers of suicide, obesity, gender differences in brain function, clinical outcomes, and brain rehabilitation. Together with Dr. Amen and colleagues, she led a clinical research trial investigating the long-term effects of repetitive subconcussive impacts in NFL football players.
Subsequent work focused on therapeutic approaches to rehabilitate brain function in athletes. More recently, Discover Magazine acknowledged the published research finding that neuroimaging can accurately distinguish traumatic brain injury from post-traumatic stress disorder in both a veteran population and large clinical cohort as one of the top 100 scientific breakthroughs of 2015, ranked at #19.
The current emphasis of her work is in investigating biomarkers for treatment of psychiatric disorders using machine learning applications. Dr. Willeumier has been featured in the media discussing breakthrough research in neuroimaging and brain health including Channel 7 news, Home and Family on the Hallmark Channel, CY Interview, Head Games Radio, the Maria Sanchez Show, Brain Talk Radio, Fox Sports, Napa Valley Register and Steamboat Today.
Effective brain rehabilitation strategies in the fields of antiaging and regenerative medicine:
Brain trauma from concussive and subconcussive impacts is frequent in professional American football players. We performed an open label pragmatic clinical intervention in 30 retired NFL players who demonstrated significant global hypoperfusion as measured with neuroimaging in addition to clinical impairments in behavior, mood and cognition.
This study included the use of multiple interventions that include dietary modifications, nutrient support, neurofeedback and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Statistically significant improvements were observed across multiple cognitive domains and enhanced perfusion was present in the prefrontal cortex, parietal lobes, occipital lobes, anterior cingulate gyrus and cerebellum. Finding effective brain rehabilitation strategies serve active and retired players but can be applicable to informing research in the fields of antiaging and regenerative medicine.